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Copyright : Anna Omelchenko

Ganging up and Giggling

I run a little social dyad with two school-aged boys (almost middle schoolers). They both need a lot of support to appropriately initiate, and especially to maintain interactions. We use a variety of different strategies and approaches to help them reach their goals. Ask-Ask-Tell from our Social Adventures App, vocabulary and concepts from Social Thinking ™ (i.e. bubble thoughts, whopping topic change, etc.), lots of self-made visuals,  and even the Zones of Regulation to help when we get too silly. That is one of our biggest challenges…getting too silly and getting stuck.

Well recently I had to sit back and let us ride into the “yellow zone” and beyond…and hang out there.

zones 2

*Image from Zone of Regulation website

They were cracking themselves up while ganging up on the teacher (me). One of the boys set the alarm function on his phone to go off in the middle of our session. The other friend did the same on my iPad when we were using for a game. The had  coordinated this (clearly communicating and demonstrating great perspective taking by trying to be secretive…and failing:), and then couldn’t control themselves with laughter when the alarms went off. I tried to be “mad” at first, but then just sat back and watched them connect and enjoy themselves. What a typical social experience- ganging up on the teacher, acting “naughty,” and laughing together. It was important for me to appreciate the skills they were demonstrating: great communication, perspective taking, humor, and appropriate body language (looking at each other, matching their friend’s affect, appropriate proximity). It was awesome.

 

We now have to work on the concept that jokes are funny one time, sometimes twice…but usually not more. This has become something we want to do every week…but from my perspective, worth adding this new social goal.

mr bounce

Mr. Bounce

Title:   Mr. Bounce (Mr. Men and Little Miss)

Author:  Roger Hargreaves

Age:  preschool, elementary school

Description:  One of the “Mr. Books” that outright speaks to those overly active, well-meaning, but tough-to-manage kids.

Goals/Concepts:

  • Self-regulation
  • Body awareness
  • Motor planning
  • Perspective taking
  • Good intentions
  • Understanding consequences of actions
  • Accepting help from an adult

Why I like this book:  First of all, this is a series that I used when I was teaching in the late 70’s, and it is adorable.   Even though it’s “old”, kids respond to the characters and story.  There are few books that specifically address those bouncy kids and, as an OT, I am happy to use this one.

Ideas for use:  

  • Before reading, discuss times when you moved too quickly or moved without looking which caused a problem for you or others.  For example, knocking over a coffee cup or tripping over a pair of shoes.  Have the kids offer suggestions of times their high activity level caused bad things to happen.  This helps “normalize” the situation without pointing a negative finger at the “Bouncers.”
  • As you read the story, have the kids anticipate what will happen.  There are lots of opportunities for visualization.  For example, “… you can guess what happened next, can’t you?” and “As you can imagine, that made things very difficult.”  Taking time to think about and discuss these concepts helps kids with ideation and planning.
  • Discuss feelings as you read.  How did Mr. Bounce feel about falling in the water?  The simple line drawings actually have very expressive faces.  Have the kids work on mimicking the expressions.
  • Young kids may not know they need help from adults to manage their high activity level.  They may be disciplined for accidents they cause and feel that they need to figure it out on their own.  I love that Mr. Bounce seeks help from an adult in this book.  Talk with kids about how we, as adults, are here to help them, not punish them.
  • Play a variation of the Silly-Calm body game from the Social Adventures App after reading this book to help kids recognize they can have control over their bodies.  When you say, “Bounce” kids can move, dance, or bounce around the room.  When you say, “Red Boots” (the shoes that were given to Mr. Bounce to help him be more grounded) the kids will freeze their bodies or pretend to sleep, or go back to their seats and remain still.

Check out their great website for lots of fun stuff http://www.mrmen.com

Submitted by:  Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

Support books4all and order this book from our Amazon Store Thank you!

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

 

breathe deeply

What’s So Hard About Breathing?

What could be simpler than breathing? We don’t have to think about it… it just happens even when we sleep. But guess what? Breathing to create a relaxation response may take some work and practice, especially for children. BUT it is well work the trouble and this is why:   Children who struggle with social challenges often live in an anxious state. When stressed, heart rates increase, blood is diverted away from the stomach to the muscles of the legs for flight, and stress hormones such as cortisol are released. This physiological response to stress is also known as the fight, flight or fight response.   How can we expect kids to remain seated in school, stay focused on a topic, respond to and play appropriately with peers, and learn when their nervous systems are working against them? We can teach them to breathe.   Deep breathing is so much more than relaxing. It can train the body to react differently to stressful situations. For example, when faced with frustration, anger, hurt, loneliness, fear, uncertainty and anxiety, breathing can help a child make wiser choices regarding how to respond in each circumstance.   However, it can be difficult to teach young children how to breathe. They often breathe quickly and shallowly as if in a race – who can breathe the loudest or fastest? They can’t see their breath and don’t have patience to slow down their breathing when their bodies are racing 90 miles per hour. In addition, many children who operate in this fight, flight or fright mode don’t possess the body awareness needed to understand what slowing and deepening their breath actually feels like.   We have been experimenting with ways to teach children the experience of inhaling and exhaling deeply while helping them notice and reflect on how this type of breathing affects their bodies and moods in the moment. We’ll be sharing thoughts and experiences using these strategies in upcoming blogs and would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences as well. In the meantime, just breathe…   photo by Amanda Hirsch https://www.flickr.com/photos/89917639@N04/

chime

Chime Time

Self-regulation is a critical life competency that opens the door to learning, communication, and play. Without it, the brain and body are too disorganized to take in new and changing information. Yet, self-regulation is really hard to teach. We can talk about it. We can practice it. We can provide behavioral rewards. However, in order for children to understand that self-regulation is important, we must help them find ways to use it and notice the benefits themselves. Ah… there’s the challenge.

We have used a wonderful little Zenergy chime to help children develop this intrinsic understanding of self-regulation in 3 different and progressive ways with our young children in Social Adventures groups. Our youngest group of 4 year olds had no interest or ability to stay with the group or play with one another once they entered the gym area. They didn’t seem to understand that the point of the group was to learn to play with each other. “But I want to do what I want to do! I don’t want to do what he is doing!” Sometimes they were very polite about it. “No thanks, I’ll just play over here by myself.” As they ran raucously around the gym, voices intensified, bodies crashed into one another and hearts, heads and bodies were hurt.

We then instituted chime time. The kids were free to play but when they heard the chime, they needed to run to the mat, sit cross-legged and fold their hands in their laps. They were then asked to breathe slowly in and out as one of the group leaders slowly released one finger at a time from her fists to provide a visible example of the speed of breath.

 Extremity-upper-fingers

This gave the children enough time to breathe and become a little better regulated before heading back out to play. Over time, we began to lengthen the time and purpose of the chime break. We noted when their breathing slowing down. We emphasized deeper breaths and longer exhalations. We commented that our bodies feel so much better when we can slow our heart down by breathing deeply. We then began to add, “Now what will you play together when you go back?” and the kids started suggesting ideas to one another! If they happened to have been playing together before the chime rang, we helped them reflect on the fun they were having together. The kids in the group began saying, “It’s chime time!” when they felt things were getting out of control. And there it is: self-regulation! Next blog I’ll write about a second way we like to use the chime in our groups. We would love to hear your ideas about how you use the chime or other strategies for self-regulation.

If you’d like to purchase this chime, please click on over to our Amazon Store so they know who sent you.

Dragon

Me and My Dragon Scared of Halloween

Title: Me and My Dragon: Scared of Halloween

Author and Illustrator:  David Biedrzycki

Age:  preschool, early elementary

Description:  A boy tried to help his pet dragon to not be afraid of Halloween.

Goals/Concepts:

  • Perspective taking
  • Body language
  • Early prediction and inferencing
  • Trying new experiences
  • Narrative language
  • Pretend play
  • Trickery
  • Social skills
  • Halloween vocabulary

Why I like this book:  The illustrations are incredible and keep kids engaged. An adorable story with a nice sequence of events for kids to retell and/or act out. There is also an Elvis reference, which I find awesome…I mean why not? :)

Ideas for use:  

  • A great story for labeling emotions and what characters could be thinking. Create a “thinking” bubble and hold over different characters heads to discuss. Point out and act out body language. Pair that with the character facial expression and discuss the context. There are great examples of “trickery” too- the dragon eventually dressed up as a dragon, but adults and kids think it’s a kid dressed as a dragon. A great opportunity for what do people “think” versus what is really happening.

Screenshot 2014-10-07 14.06.42

  • Encourage “detective eyes” to look for “clues” to help kids make inferences and predictions throughout the story. You can use the “remember” + “know” = “guess” framework for inferencing. For example in the first scene help students REMEMBER (see the clues) of the burned cake, small fire, burned clothing, soot on faces, holding fire extinguisher). What do they KNOW about dragons and fire? (they breathe fire, extinguishers are used to put out fires, etc.), helps us GUESS that the dragon accidentally burned down the cake and presents with his fiery breath!
  • Have students act out the story. Someone can be a dragon, the boy in the story and the various other characters (parents, other kids, etc.). Make a visual plan with the sequence to keep kids on task.
  • There are many opportunities for social skill discussions. A concept we work on constantly is “friends don’t make other friends wait.” The dragon has a tough time selecting his candy while trick or treating. The children in line are visibly frustrated. A good opportunity for discussion.
  • Pair with the Zones of Regulation for different emotions are how our body feels. Lots of opportunity for discussion around regulation. The Dragon obviously is “scared” and even “terrified” which can be at different “zones” in this program. Discuss the differences and what tools could help.

Z of R

Screenshot 2014-10-07 14.04.08

  • There are lots of examples of halloween vocabulary including werewolves, zombies, frankenstein, mummies, costumes, etc.
  • There is lots of “subtle” humor throughout the story that can be pointed out if language skills allow for it.

Submitted by:  Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

Support books4all and order this book from our Amazon Store.  Thank you!

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

 

 

exhuberant

Your Exuberant Child at Camp

Today, we are blogging over at Special-Ism.com.  This is the 3rd in a series of blog posts about children, temperament and summer camp.

Camp seems like the perfect place for an exuberant child who is excited about everything.  However, these are also the kids who may melt down at home or unexpectedly, at camp.  They may seem fine one minute and then explosive the next.  Here are a few tips and suggestions for helping your energetic child have a positive camp experience.

Read more here.

Photo by: Ctd 2005

summer camp

Respecting Your Child’s Temperament at Summer Camp

 

 

Today we are blogging over at Special-Ism.com.  Please take a moment to read this first in a series of blog posts about kids, their temperament and summer camp.

Every spring parents ask us about summer camps that would be appropriate for their sons or daughters; camps that embrace neurodiversity.   And every year I tell myself I’m going to search the area for the best camps so I have a great resource list.  But each year I can’t seem to get my act together and regret that I wasn’t able to provide that valuable camp list to parents.

Click here to read more…

Jill Perry MHA M.S. OTR/L

kimochi_huggtopus__40399

Kimochi Means “Feelings” in Japanese

Months ago we purchased a set of 12 Kimochis to use in our groups and
individual therapy.

Kimochis® are an engaging and effective way to introduce the
fourth “R”—reading, writing, arithmetic, and RELATIONSHIPS—into a
child’s life.

Each little Kimochi is a stuffed circle made out of soft material, bearing the name
of a feeling such as happy and sad along with the more elusive emotions such
as brave, proud, embarrassed, and the ever important, silly. On the other side
of these stuffed circles, you will find simple line drawings of facial expressions
depicting the emotions.

We use these little Kimochis for our action-emotion game. Kids choose a
Kimochi from a bag and a card with an action written or drawn on it. They then
combine and act out the emotion with the action while the other kids watch and
guess; similar to charades. We have observed sweeping sadly, embarrassed
jumping, and frustrated eating. Needless to say, this game becomes a little silly
but it has been a non-threatening way for the children to talk about, practice
assuming and reading facial expressions, and recognize body language as a way
to express emotion. It’s also a motor planning challenge to show emotion with
the body and facial expression while also executing a simple action.

I bought a couple large Kimochis recently as well. These stuffed animals have a
whole personality attached to them. Bugs is a shy caterpillar with wings tucked
in pockets behind his back. His wings can be pulled out to reflect bravery. I
have used this particular Kimochi with a little girl who has constitutional shyness.
She couldn’t look at or even talk to another person in the clinic. After carrying
Bugs around, she has been able to show me without using words, when she is
feeling brave enough to talk to another child. She has been able to interact, play,
and negotiate with another child in the gym for several weeks now with the help
of Bugs.

There is so much more to these appealing stuffed characters. I encourage you
to check out the web site, educator’s tools and products at www.kimochis.com.

As we all work to support the social and emotional health of our young children,
it’s great to have tools such as these to use and enjoy!

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

For more therapist-curated toys, please click over to our Amazon Store so they know who sent you.

jury

Chosen for Duty

Jury duty takes me back to my childhood…and not in a good way.   For the past 4 days, I have felt like a child in a grown up and somewhat foreign world.

I am required (not asked if I want to, nor excused for any reason that I deem important) to sit for 2 hours at a time in the back row in a jury box.  The air conditioner distracts me each time the fan starts.  One of the lawyers is so quiet and mumbles that I can’t hear him.  I get discouraged because I can’t follow the line of questioning so begin to fade out and miss whole chunks of testimony.  At the end of the first day, I manage to ask the court officer if something can be done about this situation.  But I missed a whole day!!

We are not allowed to have food in the courtroom.  This wouldn’t be too big a deal except that I overslept and neglected to eat breakfast before coming.  My stomach growled relentlessly which distracted me, and probably everyone around me.

I am expected to sit in the same seat next to the same people each day.  The woman directly next to me keeps trying to catch my eye.  When I finally gazed in her direction, she used facial expressions to communicate something to me about the lawyer.  I was mortified!  We are not supposed to talk at all about the trial but to do so in the middle of the courtroom terrified me!  I thought we would be humiliated and thrown out on the spot!  (We weren’t).

One of the lawyers talks too slowly, which drives me crazy.  Another one is quite aggressive, which makes me very uncomfortable.  The third is quite theatrical.  Each one discusses details about dates, e-mails, and contracts, interminably with every witness.  I am not a detail person and the actual business or content of this trial is not at all interesting to me.  Although I intensely attempt to follow the line of questioning, when I hear legal jargon, my brain begins to shut down.  I find myself watching the lawyers and witnesses with interest, letting go of the words.  Look how angry he got.  Wow, that lawyer’s hands are shaking. Hmmm, she looks different without her glasses.  I wonder if the judge is following all this or thinking about something else.

Finally, the sitting… I cannot sit for 2 hours at a time with nothing to do!  I shift in my seat, cross and re-cross my legs, bite my lip, look at the clock, play with the bracelet on my wrist, and yawn a lot.  I’ve even resorted to pinching myself to stay awake and sitting on my hands to keep from fidgeting!  I’ve almost sighed out loud at times and am working hard not to show emotion on my face.

Just when I think I understand kids, I have an experience like jury duty.   Our children may have trouble sitting still, don’t always understand what is being asked of them, aren’t particularly interested in the content, are distracted by background noises, are intimidated by adults around them, want to do the right thing but get side-tracked by other kids, or are distracted by their own physical hunger or discomfort.  In the grown up world, they are basically powerless.  I will head back to my job with gratitude that I am NOT a child and with greater respect of the challenges inherent in every day life for our children.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

Photo by j Jury Duty