The Connecting OT School Handwriting Challenge

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The Connecting OT School Handwriting Challenge

We at Connecting OT are very excited and passionate about children’s development and the teams that we can be a part of to support this process. During term 3 2017 it has been a very exciting time as we have had the first ever school handwriting challenge and have been involved in media publications within the Channel Seven news and Channel Seven Sunrise Program, as they support the positive work that we have completed. The school handwriting challenge offers a structure for schools to develop the community bonds between home and school and helps children to take charge of their handwriting practice that they are doing at home. We often have families say that they are invested and want to support this process but given that they are busy and family life is convoluted, activites can easily go by the way side. The Connecting OT Writing Practice Sheet is a system that provides a series of exercises, takes no more than 10 to 15 minutes to complete and works to develop positive behaviour habits as children develop the ability to go home, maybe have a bit of a snack and a rest, but then be able to do some homework so that they can go to school the next day and tick off on the class sheet to show that they are contributing to their class project.

The Connecting OT Writing Practice Sheets involves a quick core body exercise, finger exercises to support pencil grip and hand strength and then work through letter patterns in a variety of evidence based practice techniques that develop and change habits that children may be emerging with or have unfortunately continued with throughout their school education. We love what the teachers are doing in the classroom and we love the busy curriculums that schools offer, but we recognise that this has taken a toll on some of those basic attributes that used to have more attention placed on them. Therefore our systematic approach offers an opportunity for the school to take part in the two week challenge. Part of the tool kit that you purchase will be tailored to include a writing practice sheet for each child and a class tick sheet to track the completion of the practice that has happened every night at home for two weeks. As part of this process we will come to school and we will go around to all of the classrooms to do an introduction and go through the exercises that the children need to complete. At the end of this process we then like to come and be a part of the school assembly and hand out certificates of achievement to all the classes and all the children that have completed this process. Some children might chose to then continue with the handwriting practice sheet and some children might feel that they have made some gains in their writing and they are going to leave it at that.

Thank you for allowing us to spend a little bit of time explaining the process and the benefits of the Connecting OT school handwriting challenge and we are available to chat further about how we can roll out the challenge to suit the needs of your school. Thank you and have a great day!

Kind Regards
Kate Woods
Director Connecting OT

 

An Insider’s Perspective – The Connecting OT Writing Practice Sheet

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An Insider’s Perspective – The Connecting OT Writing Practice Sheet

It has been a very exciting time for us at Connecting OT as we have developed the Connecting OT Writing Practice sheet. We wanted to share a little bit about the journey we have gone through to get to this point and what led us to developing the practice sheet in the first place. As an occupational therapist working in paediatrics for the last 10 years it has been an exciting time to see how children work to develop skill sets that they need whilst also being aware and continually monitoring and evaluating the effect that that has on their self esteem and confidence. As paediatric occupational therapists we see that by helping children to take control of even a minor skill that they might be having difficulty with not only gives them the abilities that they need within the school setting but also makes a massive difference in terms of the way they set about their days and feel that they can change and make a difference in struggles that they might be having in everyday life.

The Connecting OT writing practice sheet is a series of exercises that works on the different muscle groups that are an integral part of the writing process. We tell the children that like any other sport if they don't use these muscles on a regular basis they won’t be able to have the endurance, precision and control that is needed to make writing an automated process. We often get parents questioning whilst a child’s writing might have been good and then it slipped back down in standard perhaps in the next year or the next grade. This can be attributed to the fact that if the writing process isn’t automated enough it means that extra energy is going to need to go into that basic writing process and therefore their mind, no matter how smart they are, isn’t available to be able to be working on the ideas, planning, executive functions and creativity that is needed as they move through the years and develop their writing skills. Therefore our back to basics approach is about identifying the key muscle groups through the body and hands, what controls as a basis of support, what provides the small minute movements that are needed to sit with good posture, isolate through the arms, use the pencil grip appropriately, have a good pencil grip and therefore make the writing process effortless and more enjoyable. As a result you will see the process that we have developed in the writing process system and how this covers those key areas.

It has made us so proud to see the children that have worked as part of school handwriting challenges, followed on from practice that they are doing in OT sessions at school or maybe even taken it upon themselves to do their own school handwriting challenge with the writing practice sheet. We have received numerous emails and phone calls from excited families of children who have received school certificates, principals awards and just their own gratification that they have taken something under their control and made a change and therefore made a difference not only in their writing goals, but also within the head space that they sit. We know that a child’s head space is the most precious and dearly regarded facet of life, so if we can make a small difference in terms of how they see themselves and how they go out into this world then that is a good goal to have completed.

Therefore we challenge you to go on our website and have a look at the range of options that we have available, whether it is an individual rainbow set or a class set. We challenge you to provide an outlet of support to create a pathway so that your child does have an opportunity to make a difference. Practice every day for two weeks with the Connecting OT Writing Practice Sheet and you will see a difference, not only in your child’s writing, but in their confidence and the way they go about life. Following up from this process please do come back to us and share the stories, as so many others have already, as this is what makes it all worthwhile for us as the Connecting OT team.

Kind Regards
Kate Woods
Director Connecting OT

Creating Happy Children One Step at a Time

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Creating Happy Children One Step at a Time

At Connecting OT we work to support children as they develop through milestones and make gains as they progress through the start of school, transitions throughout school and also the completion of school. We work to support motor skills and motor planning, body strength and endurance, fine motor skills and writing and within all of that we are looking at the sensory processing and therefore how they are able to take on information and pace themselves throughout their day and week. As adults we know that processing can be a pretty dynamic part of life. We live in a very multi faceted world at the moment, where there are lots of stressors and external noises. As adults we subconsciously and consciously are making choices in terms of how to pace ourselves. For children they are also doing this, but not necessarily in a verbalised and clear manner as we would articulate to one another. Our children might be showing their level of processing or their level of overload through tantrums, meltdowns, physical behaviours, moodiness or even quiet and passive behaviours. Parents often question what is sensory processing and how does this help my child and through this blog we just want to take a bit of time to share some thoughts that might ring true to you and if you want to follow up with us you are always welcome.

At Connecting OT whether a child is referred for hand writing, gross motor skills or concentration, we are always considering sensory processing and how much information that child is able to process at one time. Even most intelligent children and adults for that matter, can only process a certain amount of information and stimuli at any given time, so it is no wonder that we are often faced with children that become completely overloaded and overwhelmed and therefore are entering into a fight or flight response or on the opposite end of the spectrum can’t seem to bring themselves into their day and therefore could be looked upon as a bystander. For both of these challenges it comes back to the basic elements of processing and the amount of information that we are able to process at any given time. We know that feeling as adults when we are able to complete the tasks that we need to and therefore feel like we have control over what is going on in our world and it is absolutely the same for the children we see.

At Connecting OT we are consistently looking at the comfort zone in which a child is operating and what activities they feel successful with. It is when we are able to take this facet of their learning and identify how they best learn and what the sensory processing equations are that need to be brought into the picture that we are then able to help them to gradually ease out of their comfort zone and work towards having productive learning. At Connecting OT the most important facet of our work is that we are helping children to be in the productive learning zone and not in an overload zone. As soon as they come out of the comfort zone and go straight into an overload zone we can guarantee that a fight or flight level of arousal has been activated and therefore there are no gains that can be made in that state. School life, family life, life is busy all the time. Have you ever stopped to consider what level of arousal you, your child and your family are operating in? Have you ever stopped to consider the sensory processing facets that come into this equation? If your child starts the day with a bounce on the trampoline and releases the muscles, does this equate to you spending 5 minutes on your yoga mat or going on the treadmill for a 5 km run or having a nice hot shower and a stretch? Those little bodies, like adults, also need feedback to support the switching on of that intelligent creative brain and setting up for the day ahead. If we can get this mathematical equation out in the open, we can save everyone a lot of angst and make a lot of children feel comfortable and at peace and therefore able to start their day in a productive learning zone. We challenge you to consider whether their might be something that your child is actually doing on their own accord that could be a cue or a clue for you to consider in terms of how they are pacing themselves. Are they obsessed with a security blanket that is nice and soft, do they love putting things in their mouth and chewing, are they attracted to certain types of foods, do they love to get into the couch and have a bit of a rough and tumble in the cushions, do they like to have a bit of a rough and tumble with their siblings or parents? These are all facets that do play a part in normal play and development, but also couldbe flagged amongst other behaviours in terms of a sensory system that perhaps is a little bit out of whack and would benefit from being re aligned.

Therefore we invite you to share any of your thoughts or observations that you might have and what we do best is working with the family, working as part of the team to help unlock that mathematical equation in terms of what that sensory system needs and to realign the most productive way that your child can not only learn and develop, but be happy and content and what more can a parent ask for.

Kind Regards
Kate Woods
Director Connecting OT

Tuning In and Tuning Out!

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Tuning In and Tuning Out!

 

 

As another amazing year draws to a close, we at Connecting OT want to thank our families, schools and everyone else who we work with for another sensational year!

As we prepare for Christmas and 2016 draws to an end it is good to take a moment to stop and reflect. One of the key factors that I find myself reflecting on is decompression.

As adults we can make time in our day for gym, yoga or having some time out. Children can often find it hard to understand that they need quiet time and that its ok to be bored. I remember as a child, the time when I didn't need to have a day sleep anymore but needed to go and have quiet play in my room. I can actually recall coming home from being out and about and craving that time to myself to play with whatever game I had on the go.. Dolls or cars were equally likely!

As a family sometimes the best way to both decompress and reconnect is over a board game. This provides something that is slightly structured but still relaxing, it helps all siblings to be on more of an equal playing field and creates the opportunity for not only lovely time together but so importantly... referencing time, this means the eye contact and glances that automatically occur from sitting opposite, whether around the table or on the floor.

Referencing provides an integral way of scanning to gain clues regarding what is going on, eg emotions, timeliness, expectations and roles. It is best not to prompt specifically eg don't say 'look at my face it is your turn'. Instead you could try squeezing the hand of the child in question until they look up and share a smile or a glance. From there use your eyes to prompt what is going on.

The follow on from this is the functional practice that you can have around your home and out and about. Think for a second how frustrating it is to be getting ready in the morning and having to repeat the instructions 5 times. From a sensory perspective, chances are your children are not responding as their sensory systems are not regulated and in check. Something great to try is using the strategy that has been practiced in a fun and relaxing environment and experiment in other times of the day. Half the battle of changing behaviour is actually around changing the habit.

Summer holidays are often a good time to do the background work around changing behaviours in preparation for the new school year. I encourage you to try some referencing activities and see if you can see a difference when it comes to decompression and overall positive family dynamics.

Connecting OT will be taking a break until January 16, 2017 so that we can also decompress. At that point do feel free to contact us regarding any queries you might have in relation to the above or anything further.

From all of us at Connecting OT we wish you a safe and happy holidays!
Kate Vaarzon-Morel
Occupational Therapist
Director Connecting OT

Happy New Year And Welcome To 2015

Happy New Year And Welcome To 2015

 

It has been a lovely break for Connecting OT including holiday sessions at Bamkins. We are happy to now be out and about at schools, catching up with friends big and small.

Here are some tips to help you start the school year positively, don't hesitate to call or email if you would like more information!

Family Scheduling
It's amazing how aware kids are, sometimes anxieties are heightened when they are unsure of comings and goings. A whole family schedule can work to increase certainty for all family members. see Kikki K for some great options.

Visual Scheduling
The start of the year is always a challenge to master the schedule, eg the new day for PE, music etc and associated equipment. Creating a schedule or tick list increases certainty of specific jobs when it comes to bag packing... lovely magnetic options available from Bamkins.

Down Time
After school can be just as busy as school, some kids really benefit from having a break from after school activities at least one night per week or chill out time before hand. It is often great to then have a warm up activity before getting going again/starting homework. This could include trampoline time.

If any of these ideas sound helpful don't hesitate to call and ask for more information on how to tailor to your families needs!

Kind Regards

Kate Vaarzon-Morel
Occupational Therapist
Director Connecting OT

Christmas Presents And Some Ideas

Christmas Presents And Some Ideas

It is now not long until the countdown to Christmas, still there are so many events to tick off and perhaps associated gifts to consider.

The end of school year = teacher presents and friend gifts, there are stocking fillers to hunt for and family presents to source, I will include in this blog 3 ideas for shopping for presents that have fun options that also embrace fine motor development and creativity through planning and sensory processing.

This year I have given all the children we work with as well as the teachers "Theraputty" as a little thank you gift. Putty is great for working on hand strength but is also a great sensory regulator and stress release! Most teachers have responded with 'thank you I needed that'!

I would like to thank my friends at Bamkins resource shop for the part they played in this. I am lucky enough to practice from here - 407 Hampton St, Hampton. Gift ideas include Theraputty and aromatherapy putty, Rush Hour - the ultimate car game, triangular pencils, heaps of gooey squishy toys and a big range of Kimochi's.

The National Geographic store is also on my radar as they have a wide range of toys and price points and stock cool lava lamps (great for relaxation), lots of stress balls of different forms and heaps of great mind games.

Last but not least Kikki K is great with lots of enticing visual schedules and family schedules to help everyone be involved in planning, fun post it notes for small check lists and a lovely variety of pens and pencils!

As per my last blogs, there are many therapeutic tools around, many toys that require use of pincer fingers (thumb and fore fingers), have a go and feel free to contact me for more info!

Kind Regards

Kate Vaarzon-Morel

Director Connecting OT

Why Dogs Are A Great Form Of Sensory Regulation

Why Dogs Are A Great Form Of Sensory Regulation

My first experience of having a dog has completely changed my life. Friends referred to me as 'non animal Kate' and I had never understood what I was missing out on until now. All animals, but especially dogs add a forced sense of relaxation and rejuvenation to life, thus a regulatory opportunity.

Losing time with dogs is a great form of sensory processing and regulation. Life is so busy, especially in the lead up to Christmas. To have to take that time to stop and play with my pup Ol is a treasured time in my day. No matter what I have done throughout the day I can switch my mind off and completely relax in the moment.

As adults we tend to know how to regulate as we structure our lives around likes and dislikes. We may not be aware that sensory processing comes into this but we are all sensory beings. For kids, they have to learn how they can thrive in our dynamic and sensory stimulating world. Quite often they are expressing what they need to seek or what they dislike and avoid but it isn't always appropriate or the best choice.

Dogs and kids can therefore be an amazing form of sensory regulation. Dogs teach patience and pacing. Kids and adults must learn not only to look after their dog but to show their love and build trust by spending time hugging, playing and grooming. Working on these tasks provides an opportunity to chill out and regulate.

Dogs provide proprioceptive feedback. Think about times that your dog comes and leans it's body on you, it actually acts as an impromptu weighted pillow. This can be extremely helpful for kids that benefit from frequent input and especially deep pressure.

Dogs need exercise, what a fantastic reason to get extra movement breaks. Whether it is rolling on the floor with the dog, chasing it around the park or even playing ball we can create extra movement breaks into our daily routine.

For more information on sensory regulation and how to create a sensory diet feel free to call or email.

Kind regards
Kate Vaarzon-Morel
Director Connecting OT

School Holiday Success Builders

School Holiday Success Builders

Alarm bells can ring as the year madly comes to an end, common questions I am asked by parents include 'how can I help my child be more ready for school this coming year?',  'what can we do to utilise the school holidays?' and 'what can be done if we want to focus on key areas that have been raised in the school report?'.

There are some great ways to utilise the school holidays, sometimes it is about practicing skill sets in a similar but different environment. Sometimes it is about developing the missing pieces of the puzzle to help the way your child learns make more sense.

At Connecting OT we offer support in a number of ways. Parent sessions can be helpful to have a crash course in navigating through trouble some behaviour, understanding sensory processing and up skilling in terms of ways of developing skill sets in fun relaxed ways over the holidays.

Kids enjoy coming to the Bamkins educational resource shop to try exciting activities that are both therapeutic and fun and great for Christmas presents.

Consolidation sessions are offered both in December and January. Please call or email Kate for more information of to make a booking.

School holidays are an important time to relax and recharge, see if you can have one host that will create success and school readiness for the coming year!

Kind regards
Kate Vaarzon-Morel
Director Connecting OT

Think Crab Claws

Think Crab Claws

How can we consolidate our OT skills over the school holidays? Kate answers with a smile, "this is a common question, I am often asked, a tricky one for families who are busy, on holidays or wanting to chill out.. However easy to answer!

Two key challenges that are easy to address are use of hand muscles and core strength. All muscle groups are the same, the more we use them the more control we have.

Hand strength for pencil control is all about using the thumb and pointer finger in opposition. Think crab claws, look around your house or holiday destination and look for games that need this action. Pinching play dough, using tongs or chop sticks, pinching sand castle towers and putting toothpicks in sausages are just a few ideas.

Core strength is just as important, not just for postural control but also as a basis of support for fine motor strength. The more control through the core region the more control down the arms and through the hands. Activities can be built into our daily routines including crab walking to the bathroom to clean teeth, 5 chair popcorn at the dinner table before eating, monkey bars at the park, boogie boarding at the beach and window drawing with special window textas to name a few.

The Connecting OT team has had a great year of school sessions, it has been amazing to use the rooms at Bamkins and help families choose helpful resources. We will be open for school holiday sessions in January so feel free to call or email to find out more!

Kind Regards
Kate Vaarzon-Morel
Director Connecting OT