May
27

The Learning Continues During a Sense-sational Summer

Smiling son on round web swing being pushed by his mother

Last year at this time, we had just wrapped up an unprecedented school year. What a difference a year has made! As the 2020-2021 school year is soon wrapping up, or maybe just has finished for students across Indiana, I want to encourage parents, teachers, and students to have a “Sense-sational” summer! We have gone through a lot the last year and a half. It’s time for some fun! Engaging in activities that entice multiple sensory experiences and both incorporating a schedule and keeping kiddos on a schedule, can set a family’s summer up for success!

Is the first thing you think of when you think of Summer Break: Intentionally planning activities that will help students grow and thrive in literacy, math, writing, communication, sensory, and behavior? Well, probably not. However, we can plan a fun summer with lots of intentional, educational experiences. Why not make the most of the outdoors and engage the senses while you’re at it? I have created a list of activities/strategies that parents can use to make learning fun this summer and to avoid hearing the dreaded words, “I’m bored. There is nothing to do."

First thing first! Have a plan, maybe even a plan that can vary and be added to on the go, but a schedule nonetheless! Research has proven that children thrive in the safety and predictability of a schedule or routine. They are used to it from being in school everyday. One can plan a day, week or month at a time. The children will benefit from a schedule, no matter how simple or complex you make it. You can write a schedule on a white board, draw on paper, create one on an app, use pictures or create one on a program like Lesson Pix. I have included a version daily visual schedule checklist as an example. No matter what, letting the kids know the expectations of the day will help everyone in the household.



Develop a schedule that includes movement, play, and leisure. Plan for all the senses and incorporate lots of movement. Modeling play activities for your children can be super beneficial. Allowing your children to make choices in some parts of the day will increase their independence and control of their environment. Ask you children for their input and specifically ask what activities they want to do with you this summer. You may be surprised by their answers! 

Another consideration while setting up a schdule that will encourage showing positive behavior, following directions, following the schedule, and keeping up with expectations is adding a reward. A reward can be a praise, a fun activity, or something out of the ordinary. A reward such as a walk to the park for a picnic, could encourage your child to follow the schedule for that meaningful reward. Adults and children alike enjoy something to look forward to on the calendar. Make the reward achievable and fun for the whole family!

Finally, be sure to include all the senses when planning your summer activities! Given that all of our sensory systems are unique and may not function similarly, you can modify this list to individual or family needs.

  1. Touch (Tactile) - Play in different media - paint, pudding, water table, water beads, or sand, introduce different textures and warm/cold temperatures to touch, or walk or put barefeet in the grass.
  2. Sight (Vision) - Seek out bright colors, high contrast, and play games like I spy (i.e. "I spy something blue." or "I spy something that is a rectangle." Be sure to add more descriptions for children with low vision such as "I spy something at the sink that is blue and has one rough side and one side that is bumpy with holes in it."). Notice the colors that catch your eye and point them out to your children.
  3. Taste (Gustatory) - Grow or buy some new veggies or fruits to try. Describe them, their taste, texture, temperature, spiciness, etc. Make your own popsicles or pudding. Try new foods and have fun trying to describe them.
  4. Smell (Olfactory) - Seek out the scents of the season: flowers, fresh cut grass, the scent of ozone after rain, and notice the scent of the pool. Make your own play dough and add scents or spices to make the activity more “scent-sationally” fun!
  5. Hearing (Auditory) - Listen to and identify sounds in the environment. Create conversations around sounds and music. Ask questions like: Do you hear a bird? Do you hear the sound of the cicadas? I hear fireworks in the distance, do you? Read with your ears. Make music. Feel the vibration of music in a speaker or on the piano as it is played. 

As an occupational therapist (OT), I am quick to add the two additional senses beyond the five senses I learned in grade school. There are actually seven senses to consider! In my work as an OT, taking the last two senses in consideration and planning for them was a large part of my role in the school system. Let’s cover some activities to engage them too!

  1. Proprioception (Body Position in Space) - Think of heavy work activities such as pushing a wheelbarrow, jumping on a trampoline, having bear crawl races, doing wall push ups, carrying “heavy” objects from one place to another, and doing activities that put a good amount of weight through your joints.
  2. Vestibular (Movement) - Swing on a swing, take a spin on the merry go round, slide on slides, rock in a rocking chair, spin in circles, ride a scooter board on your stomach, or do somersaults.

Make this a great summer of connection and lasting memories through activities. Create a notebook and keep track of the experiences of the summer. Use pictures, words, symbols, drawings, and reflect on all experiences that were intentionally planned -the new and the old. I would love to hear your favorite sensory rich summer activities too! Please share in the comments or reach out to me!

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Nov
30

Thanksgiving

Cream and Brown Autumn leaves Background with the word Thanksgiving in uppercase letters Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving comes every year, I love to hear people reflect about what they are thankful for! Traditionally, as a family we go around the table at Thanksgiving and say something we are thankful for, so I thought perhaps I should mirror this professionally as well. 2020 has been a challenge for so many, but I’ve been reflecting on what good things have happened this past year. Professionally, I have so much to be thankful for. This month marked one year of my time being a PATINS Staff member, I want to share a few things that I am so thankful for!


Resources - Immeasurable resources are being shared daily. I have never seen such an outpouring of resources available online, as I have during the pandemic. I am thrilled to see multiple offerings. Check out the PATINS Training Calendar for more upcoming opportunities or make a request from the Lending Library for additional requests. 


Teamwork - I have been given the opportunity to work with the best team of coworkers! If anyone needs support, there is an entire staff to help stakeholders throughout the state. Check out our PATINS Staff, their specialities, and contact them! Just last week, another specialist and I collaborated to meet the needs of the educator supporting a student with communication, motor, and low vision challenges. It is great to gain the insight of my colleagues when we work together. Being an Occupational Therapist, I am able to bring a unique perspective to the table, but the richness of having another specialist with a background in speech and language pathology, blind/low vision education, deaf and hard of hearing education, or general or special education adds to the depth of the consultation and benefits all those involved.


Relationships - Through webinars, consultations, Twitter Chats, phone calls, and more I have been able to develop relationships with stakeholders across the state. Join us on Twitter every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm EST. My PLN, or Professional Learning Network, grows weekly on Twitter! This year in particular, I have met numerous educators in Zoom meetings. It is wonderful to put a face with the name!


Increased Accessibility - Our students in Indiana have had increased access to the curriculum this year, due in part to the quick action of educators to soak up all available resources, virtual training, and support available during the pandemic. Teachers and Administrators have embraced accessibility needs this year. We have an updated document of Continuous Learning support and YouTube videos available offering guidance on providing specific supports for all learners. 



As I wrap up my first full year at the PATINS Project, I am thankful for the new relationships and strong teamwork which have helped me to both learn and share new resources and increase access to the curriculum for Indiana students. I hope to assist many more educators this year in finding the best iPad accessibility features and ways to integrate them into daily plans, consulting and providing support with behavioral challenges, and increasing the use of Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Material for students in the primary grades. Feel free to contact me at any time! I will look forward to it!


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Guest — David Jackson
Great post!
Tuesday, 01 December 2020 19:26
Guest — Martha
Has it been a year? It's great having you with us, Lisa. We all have much to be thankful for.
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 13:19
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Aug
28

Starting Each Day… Thinking about the End of the Day

Starting Each Day… Thinking about the End of the Day Journal open to "Everyday is a Fresh Start."

My family is 4 weeks into the school year and mid-term grades are being posted this week. I don’t know what your situation is, but our school day schedule can be chaotic. I have five children. Three of them attend school 5 days a week all day (2 different schools), 2 children attend a hybrid program that is in person 2 days a week with online instruction 3 days, and the last child attends classes 5 mornings a week at a technical school. Did you follow all of that??? I would be lying if I told you we are always organized, on time, and knowing whether we were coming or going!

I am so grateful for grace and compassion in this season of continual change! Seems like every day, I try to give both of those freely! I may fail some days, but I sure try. One thing that helps my family is having a predictable schedule or daily agenda. As a parent and OT, I encourage you to model this one important life skill: 

Managing Schedules

I will be the first to admit this hasn’t always been my strong suit. It’s something I have had to work on and model with my children. Following a schedule is so important for all of us especially now. We take comfort and feel safe in knowing what comes next!

What works best for my crew is to let them know what to expect all day. We wake up and start thinking about what’s next…and actually what we will do after school too. This structure is helpful for ALL of us.  All of my children have a printed schedule of their school day in a folder, with various layers of strategies to support them (e.g., some with times for class periods, some have icons to remind them which class/folder is which period, and some are color coded with subjects written out). One of my children has visual schedules for smaller chunks of her day as well (morning and evening routines, chores, after school schedule, bus or car rider, etc.). For my 2 with hybrid schedules, they stay on the school period schedule even though they are home to ensure they get their work done. Schedules are a tool that helps them to be independent with many school and home activities.

When the schools transitioned to virtual in the spring due to COVID-19, the one thing that held our family together was our schedule. With the therapists, counselors, special education teachers, and classroom teachers meeting virtually with my children, they needed the daily schedule as much as I did to keep all the appointments all straight. Following a schedule is a skill that we now rely on daily. The daily schedules are especially helpful for transitions from play to work activities and providing built in breaks. This week, a dear friend of mine from the United Kingdom sent a message mentioning she shared a recent PATINS TV feature on Visual Schedules with the family of one of her students, which inspired me to share this resource again and the success of using schedules in our family. 

Check out the PATINS YouTube channel for more ideas and resources. The PATINS Project Staff supports all Indiana public and charter schools and can help you create the high tech, low tech or no tech solutions to help your students access their education, including creating visual schedules.


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Jennifer Conti
It's so helpful to share what is working for your family this school year and I have no doubt it will be beneficial to others as w... Read More
Monday, 31 August 2020 09:31
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May
31

Take a Deep Breath and Start to Reflect

Female student participating in continuous learning from home at at desk. The computer monitor shows class material, teacher and classmates on virtual learning platform.

This school year has been different for so many reasons. The way it ended (or is about to end) is not how anyone expected.

It has been an unprecedented season for educators across the nation and world. I encourage you to take a moment now to take a deep breath, and start to reflect on the 2019-2020 school year.


How will you wrap up this year? What have you learned while serving students this year? What goals will you have for next school year? I have some thoughts to share and encourage you as you close this chapter and look forward to the 2020-2021 school year.


1. Reflect - List your successes this school year, both professionally and personally. Make a list of things you learned, connections you made with students and parents, and areas of growth. Next consider and list your challenges, but also how you overcame them. You have done a great job and made a difference in your students' education. Celebrate the successes! 


2. Rejuvenate & Relax - With summer arriving, make a list of ways you plan to rejuvenate yourself to prepare for a new school year. Make a list and start checking your list off. Even though many of us work through the summer to prepare for the following school year, intentionally take time for yourself. You cannot pour into the lives of students if your cup is not running over.


3. Reset - Once you have reflected and taken time for yourself, you may be ready to set goals for the next school year. How will your goals look different for next year? Will you have a component of social and emotional learning from day one? Will you try to connect with each student right away? How so? I would encourage you to set both personal and professional goals for growth over the school year. As educators, we set them for our students frequently. We are a work in progress too. As professionals, we will keep moving forward, growing along the way.

4. Access Resources - As you prepare for next year, use your available resources, one of which is the PATINS Project. We are here for you. I am beyond thankful for the thousands of educators, administrators and parents have taken advantage of our virtual office hours, technical support, COVID-19 resources, ICAM, webinars, and all of the many resources PATINS offers. I have never been so proud of Indiana educators as I have been the last two months. I have seen your efforts first hand (both as a public school employee and mother of 5 children) and I am proud of you. Take some time to Reflect, Rejuvenate & Relax, and Reset as you have done great things and have many more great things to do!

Please feel free to share your some of your successes in the comments below. Let us celebrate with you!!

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Feb
20

The Power of Connection

As the newest member of the PATINS Specialists Team, I have had the pleasure to meet many educators across the state in my first 3 months. I have seen the amazing work of educators across the state firsthand. I am asked to problem solve, find resources for, and train educators in my specialty areas. It has been an incredible experience thus far!  

One thing that has rung true the past few months is that we all are connected. So often I walk into a new school and I can find a connection to the staff member or the administrator I meet with. Feeling connected, or having meaningful relationships with others, is a basic need. Humans need to feel connected to thrive.  

Have you ever noticed the power of an unexpected kind word or gesture? Many students do not even know the need for connection exists until they are taught how to create it. They are struggling to navigate the pathways of life. School is one of the many areas they are struggling in. Learning to build positive relationships with others will help students in school and other environments throughout life.  

Educators care about students and their learning experience. The connection or relationship between an educator and student ensures they are ready to learn. Making a good and positive connection with your student will allow an educator to speak into their life. An educator’s role is mighty and multifaceted. One thing is certain though - connecting with all the students you teach will impact them profoundly.  

The educator-student connection may allow an educator to influence actions in the classroom such as work completion, attention, behavior, and success. At first, it may mean the educator offers lots of positive rewards, intentional conversations, and motivational moments. Your efforts will pay off when the student knows you care.  

In the relationship-building process, you will learn to appreciate each student for their strengths as well! I love learning about the educators and students I work with, as I am sure that you appreciate that connection too. Some students need help building positive relationships.  

Relationship Skills is one of the five Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Competencies. Some schools offer SEL programming. There are many resources available to help build the SEL skills needed to be ready to learn. This is one area I have connected with educators within my time as a PATINS Specialist. As social and emotional skills improve, students will become ready to learn. 

As I close my first blog, I want to offer a few ways educators can connect with students. We can empower students to learn through modeling positive relationships and connection. Here are a few ways you can build connection:  
  • Greet them with their name and a high five or fist bump in the morning. 
  • Write your student a positive note.  
  • Catch them being good and praise them for it.  
  • Share a favorite activity, game, food, etc.  
  • Find something you have in common to talk about.  
  • Attend a sporting event or extra-curricular activity or ask about it if you cannot attend.  
  • Call their parents with them to offer a positive report.  
  • Engage in play or a game that they like at recess.  
I encourage you to try one of these out today. Add a new one each week. Let me know what changes you see by Spring Break in the comments below!

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Guest — Jen
Way to jump right into the resources with your first blog, Lisa! Don't we all love those cute videos of the teacher with the perso... Read More
Thursday, 20 February 2020 13:31
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