fireman small

Fireman Small

Title: Fireman Small

Author: Wong Herbert Yee

Age: preschool, early elementary

Description: One tiny firefighter works hard all day to help his friends when they are in trouble.


  • Rhyming
  • Auditory Memory
  • Sequencing
  • Prediction
  • Perspective Taking
  • Helping others
  • Dramatic Play

Why I like this book: The catchy rhyme in this book grabs kids’ attention and the simple plot line is great for inspiring dramatic play.

Ideas for Use:

  • This story contains a repetitive rhyme that recurs several times within the story. Have kids complete more and more of the rhyme each time it occurs to encourage auditory memory skills
  • The problems related in the story have rather obvious solutions so this is a great book for introducing the idea of problems and solutions within a story.
  • This book can also be used to introduce the category of community helpers. Discuss the different roles that each community helper plays in our community and then play a round of the Bag Game to reinforce those concepts.
  • The narrative structure of this story lends itself very well to use with the Story Grammar Marker App. Have kids retell the story with particular focus on the “kickoff” (initiating event) for each problem, the accompanying emotion, the “plan” and the resolution.
  • This is a fantastic story for promoting group pretend play. Using small people figurines and dramatic play materials, the kids can set up a fire station and props for each of the story components. Kids can then take turns with each of the characters.
  • Kids can also act out the story with themselves as characters and gross motor materials as props. Acting out the story in this way provides a wealth of opportunity to experience movement, deep muscle input and tactile sensations. Using a scooter board or platform swing as a fire truck, a soft barrel as a well and/or a climbing pole as a tree provides lots of different sensory input while fostering representational ideation and play.
  • Fireman Small’s friends really appreciate him. Use this story to talk about thanking friends when they are helpful and how good it feels when we help others. Social Thinking Behavior Maps provide a great visual aid for talking about the connections between our actions and our emotions.

Submitted by:  Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

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Your Uniquely Quirky Child at Camp

Today, we are blogging over at  This is the 4th in a series of blog posts about children, temperament and summer camp.

Your child loves computers, video games, or anything mechanical.  He or she would love to stay in the house and play on the iPad or computer all day every day.  It is unnerving and a little (or maybe a lot) scary to see how absorbed your child becomes in these devices.  You plot and plan how to get him or her outside or engaged in physical activity during the school year.  How will you manage a whole summer????  I know…sign him or her up for camp; a nice out door camp with lots of kids who like to swim, do crafts, play sports, and essentially, like being with other kids.  What a great idea!  But then half way through the first week your child says he won’t go back to camp.  Nothing there is interesting.  The other kids are annoying.  Now what?  Of course, this may be an extreme example of what some uniquely quirky kids and families go through (or maybe not) but here are a few tips to help you and your child get through the camp experience.

Photo by: Tim Pierce

Read more here

sensational kids

Helping Kids Through Tantrums


Helping Children Through Tantrums In the Moment

Parents often ask what can be done when their sensitive child is having a full-blown tantrum.  I have worked with many wonderful families who implement sensory diets, use visual schedules, and write social stories to try to cover all bases.  Yet…life happens, unexpected events abound, and kids tantrum.

Dr. Lucy Jane Miller has provided a wealth of information about sensory processing disorders through relentless research and advocacy.  She is committed to educating parents so they can practice clinical reasoning in their own unique situations.  In her book, Sensational Kids, Dr. Miller offers these respectful words:  “One of the desires nearly all parents voice for therapy is for strategies to improve daily life with their sensational kids.  A toolbox of techniques for specific priorities is indispensable, but parents also need broader strategies to help them address sensory and behavioral issues that can be variable, contradictory, and baffling.”

Dr. Miller created the acronym, A SECRET, to provide parents a way to remember and implement the fundamentals of clinical reasoning in their everyday lives.  Families need a flexible way of considering their child’s personality, temperament, needs, and context in order to find effective ways to manage melt downs.

A SECRET includes seven elements.  The first three elements are individual characteristics that influence the child internally.  The last four elements are contextual and influence the child externally.  This is an elastic strategy that can be used with children of any age.  When your child tantrums, ask yourself the following questions:



Attention Is there a way I can draw my child’s attention away from his anxiety?
Sensation Is there a sensation that is alarming my child right now?  If so, what is it and can it be modified?  Can I use another sensation to override the alarming one?
Emotion What emotion is my child experiencing and what techniques do I know that work best when he feels this way?
Culture What part of the culture of this activity can be changed to avoid situations like this in the future?
Relationship Is there something in my child’s relationship with me or someone else right now that is causing him to act a certain way?  What can I do about it?
Environment What in the environment is setting my child off?  How can I change it?
Task What is troubling my child about the task at hand?  How can the task be modified so that it is not so problematic for my child?


If your child is currently treated by an occupational therapist, discussions with that clinician will help you better understand and use A SECRET in your everyday lives.


Jill Perry MHA MS, OTR/L


Miller, Lucy Jane. 2006. Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). G.P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, New York.


Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation:


Re-Boot with Some Classroom OT!

Imagine that it is the middle of the school day.  You are tired and have a million different things floating around your mind.  What’s for dinner? I need to pay a bill tonight.  Will I ever catch up on emails?  You are trying to concentrate on one thing at a time but we all know that is impossible.

Now imagine that you are a child.  You have all the same tired feelings and the same number of worries floating through your brain but you have one tenth of the coping skills to manage your day.  You don’t know that you need help much less how to ask for it and you feel like you may shut down or crash at any moment.

Being Proactive

As educators we need to be in tune to our own feelings as well as those of our students so that we can anticipate these moments and be prepared to deal with them.   I am fortunate enough to have worked with some wonderful OTs who have helped me try to be the teacher with the never-ending toolbox.  I have come to learn that every student has a different way to deal with their stresses and fatigue.  I realize now that when it comes to OT one size does NOT fit all!

OT Strategies

Throughout the school year we have taught students many different coping strategies.  We practiced breathing and yoga.  We worked on chair pulls and wall pushes.  We have provided silly putty and encourage students to get a drink from water bottles.  We created a reading nook and a break space.  We have provided journals and have access to iPads.  Our students identified which strategies help them relax and we provide them as an option on a daily basis.  We thought we were all set.  We slowly started to realize that without prompting, most students continued to internalize their feelings and they were crashing despite our efforts.  The question moved from what should we have them do to how are we going to get them to do it?

We Have to Re-Boot

Finally one day in the midst of a classroom breakdown, I had a breakthrough.  I turned off the lights and yelled FREEEZE!!!  They froze.  I asked them to close their eyes.  All eyes were closed.  Next, I asked them to imagine a computer with a lot of windows open.  The computer is trying to do too many things at one time and is becoming slower and slower.  Maybe your computer totally froze and you lost everything.  We have only one choice.  We have to Re-boot! I told them to click out of each program just like a computer would.  Click out of worrying about that math test or that argument at recess.   Click out of thinking about that birthday party or field trip.  Slowly and quietly one by one click out and shut down.  Shutting down a computer takes a minute or two.  It might even be a physical motion when the students lie down and close their eyes.  I ask them to stay shut down for a moment or two.  Totally clear and turned off.  Now we can reboot.  Turn the power buttons on one at a time slowly.  It takes a while for a computer to re-boot; it will take a while for their bodies and minds to do the same.  Once their “desktop” is restored, every program they were in, every worry or thought they had is gone.  They are a clear screen, a blank canvass.

Kids Begin to Self-Advocate

We have done this a few times as a class activity.  I have even done it one on one with a student who was really struggling.  We have started asking students if they need to “re-boot” and if they say “yes” they have all of those strategies and interventions I mentioned earlier at their disposal.  A few students have even started using the phrase “I need to re-boot or re-start” followed up with a request to do wall pushes or grab some silly putty.  Our goal as educators is always to help the students self regulate their emotions and their behavior.  Our classroom re-boot has slowly started that process and we hope that they continue to use any strategy they need to refresh.

Maybe one of your students can get a drink and feel better but another needs some pressure in their shoulders or fingers to successfully move on.  Teaching them to re-boot helps them to recognize the need while helping you to individualize the strategies making OT applicable and successful in the classroom.  Who knows, you may be re-booting just as much if not more than your students! Happy OT Month!

by Meghan O’Hara, M.Ed.

image by:

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Laugh, Move, and Ask

B is one of the most lovable 6 year olds I know.  Let me describe him.  B can’t sit in his seat more than 2 minutes without falling out of his chair or swinging his head and body back and forth for vestibular stimulation.  When called to sit on the floor, he is soon found positioned in such a way that the top of his head is pressed against the floor while he gazes at me with his beautiful, blue eyes…upside down.  As the kids line up to get ready for the gym, B paces in a circle looking at the pattern on the rug.

What makes B so lovable?  His middle name could be “earnest”.  B desperately wants to do the right thing, but his body simply won’t cooperate. He can answer any question we ask, proving that he processed every word.  There is anxiety evident in my little friend.   He knows he will be called on 20+ times a day to sit in his seat, pay attention, look at the teacher, stop moving his body; all the time aware of the fact that he just can’t do it.   He WANTS to do what is asked but his body won’t allow it.  So, B cries easily, responds defensively, and often states, “I know, I KNOW!” when corrected.  Sadly, at this point in time all the sensory diets in the world are not helping.  B needs intensive occupational therapy to address an underlying sensory processing disorder (which he will be receiving soon).  However, B also needs to be in school, needs to learn, needs to not disrupt his peers and teachers.  This is a real dilemma for everyone.  So here are 3 bits of help I have found in our group:

  1. Humor works.  When he is treated respectfully, with humor, B’s anxiety decreases and he can adjust briefly.  For example, “B, why are your eyes where your mouth should be?” when he is lying down on the rug rather than sitting.
  2. Movement helps.  Given the opportunity to move as needed, calms B’s nervous system and doesn’t interfere with his learning though we adults cannot understand HOW.  We certainly couldn’t process while moving like that!  But B can and does.
  3. Ask the question.  When we ask, “What will help your body stay in the seat?” B actually comes up with some reasonable suggestions!  He feels respected and understood.  He appreciates that we are on his side and he is more invested in making the accommodation work.

Unfortunately, I feel the need to mentioned what doesn’t work.  Punitive correction does not help.  Remember, B KNOWS what he did “wrong”.  He just can’t do anything about it in the moment.  Finally, I must add that I am not advocating free reign without consequences for actions that clearly disrupt, offend, hurt, or destroy property.  Like all children and adults, B must learn to be held accountable for his actions.  But doing so from a position of understanding and respect makes all the difference in the world!

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

image by: Kasey Eriksen

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the cozy book

The Cozy Book

Title: The Cozy Book

Author:  Mary Ann Hoberman

Illustrator:  Betty Fraser

Age:  preschool, early elementary

Description:  This is a beautifully illustrated book that takes a child through waking up to bedtime while experiencing all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, movement and emotions a young child might live through in a day.


  • Sensory regulation
  • Perspective taking
  • Body awareness
  • Sequencing
  • Spatial terms
  • Friendship
  • Imaginative play
  • Rhyming

Why I like this book:  This is a book that must be experienced.   It is long and written in rhyme.  The illustrations have lots of detail, action, and emotion.  The book reminds us that we live in a world that bombards the senses at every turn and recognizing the “cozy” senses can help us stay regulated.
Ideas for use:

  • Read the book a little at a time and have the kids talk about what is “cozy” or regulating for them as each sense is highlighted.
  • Talk with kids about the sequence of their days.
  • The book points out that some things are “cozy” for some people and not for others.  Have a discussion about differences and taking another person’s perspective.
  • Kids can conversely talk about sensory experiences that are not cozy and what they can do about it.  (Some kids in the book are putting hands over their ears to block out noise).

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

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From the Ocean Floor to the Classroom Door

I am always trying to find new and innovative ways to help my students navigate the complex world of childhood. I am constantly manipulating strategies I find on social media outlets such as Pinterest and educational blogs. I love to see what other educators are doing and I enjoy trying to adapt these ideas to fit our diverse classroom.

After reading the all4mychild blog post about the interactive book The Angry Octopus by Lori Lite, I was compelled to check it out. After not just reading but experiencing the story with my students, I was inspired to bring that Octopus into our classroom permanently.

In the story, the Octopus becomes angry when his rock garden is ruined over night by some lobsters. We physically see his anger grow in the black cloud of ink that spreads further and further into the surrounding sea. That ink gives us a visual of what anger would look like if we could physically watch it grow. We can feel that growing anger as we watch the waves moving slowly and the screen getting more and more black. We feel mad and confused and we don’t understand why those lobsters messed up that rock garden!

Luckily, we are saved as the Mermaid rescues us with her soothing voice calmly giving the octopus, and his sympathizers, some strategies to manage anger. She suggests more than one strategy ranging from stretches to breathing realizing he may need more than one. She repeats this ritual until the ink has dissipated and the problem is small enough to discuss and solve.

We watched this story unfold as a class on our iPads. We stretched and took deep breaths with the Octopus and related his rock garden to experiences in our own lives. The students took this lesson to heart realizing while they will get angry it is up to them to control their anger before it spreads like the ink cloud in the ocean

After our meaningful discussion we decided to make our own Octopus to remind us how to manage our own anger.

We talked as a class and narrowed down 8 strategies to manage anger. (8 for 8 arms of course) We have everything from taking a break to dancing off our anger. The students were able to give their input and as such they took ownership of the activity and the strategies. We hung the Octopus on our door and refer to it often. I love the non-verbal cue I can give the students and I love watching them use it on their own to self regulate their emotions and the behaviors associated with them. Educational blogs like all4mychild have really transformed my classroom and my teaching alike. Our next lesson is only a click away!

Submitted by: Meghan O’Hara 

Meghan O’Hara is Head Teacher of 1st and 2cd grade at the The Tobin School in Natick, MA. We have had the pleasure of working closely with Meghan over the years and have loved watching the creative ways she integrates social cognition concepts into her classroom curriculum. We are delighted to introduce her as a guest blogger today and look forward to more contributions from her in our future Teacher Features.


freeze tag

In the Moment

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L
I’d like to start a conversation about the social impact of sensory processing challenges.  We see how poor balance, body awareness, and touch sensitivities alienate kids with sensory and motor difficulties from their peers.  I treat children with these issues individually and provide sensory diets to families and teachers all the time.  However, the question that is often posed to me is, “What can we do about this in-the-moment?”

Even with therapy and frequent opportunities for sensory and motor breaks, it takes a long time to help kids through these issues.  In the mean time, they are annoying friends and siblings and effecting negative impressions on adults.  Although there are no magic answers, I have found that working on sensory processing issues in the context of a small group to be extremely helpful.

While kids are engaged in a highly motivating movement activity, we call out “freeze-frame” to stop an offensive action or exaggerated response.  We then talk about what just happened and what we can do to change the action and reaction, re-wind, and start again.  Once kids know this is part of our group process, they are open to “freeze-frame”, “rewind” and “start again” and become more aware of how their sensory challenges impact others.  What do you find helpful in your homes, therapy, classrooms, and play grounds?  

Image by Paul Sableman

hard to be a verb

It’s Hard to be a Verb

Book: It’s Hard To Be a Verb!

Author: Julia Cook

Age: Preschool and School Age

Description: Louis (our friend from Personal Space Camp, and My Mouth in a Volcano) struggles with “focus.” His mom gives him some strategies to help him at home and at school because “it’s hard to be a verb.”


  • Social Skills
  • Body Language
  • Sensory Tools
  • Regulation
Why I like this book: Great for discussion about whole body listening, and helping kids find ways to help themselves.
Ideas for use: 
  • While reading, have kids identify how their body feels when they feel their body is a “verb.” Louis feels itchy and jumpy, how do you feel? Is it your body? It it your mind? Is it both?
  • A good book to introduce some body tools (best to do with guidance from your team OTs). What tools and strategies help them? Taking a break, moving their bodies, a drink of water, putty, reading a book, squeezing thier muscles and then relaxing, making a schedule with visuals, visual reminders, etc. Great to discuss how everyone uses different tools to help themselves. Provide some options and experiment.
  • Discuss how their bodies should look when they are “focused.” Focus on all different parts of the body. Listening eyes, listening hands, listening feet, etc. With younger kiddos you can do “NOT listening eyes,” then switch to “listening eyes,” and do with each body part.
  • Discuss WHY we need good listening bodies. What are other people (friends, teachers, etc.) thinking if we’re not listening with our whole bodies? What are some clues that we may not be listening? How can we help a friend that is having  a hard time?
  • Brainstorm places/contexts where it’s ok to be a “verb.” Playgrounds, outside, P.E. class, movement games in the classroom, etc. Can tie to safety awareness too.

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

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Percy Plays It Safe

Title: Percy Plays It Safe

Author: Stuart J. Murphy

Description: Percy is a cute giraffe who restricts the fun of others with his raucous play on the playground until he learns how to “play it safe”.

Body language
Motor planning
Social skills
Safety awareness
Respecting one another

Why I like this story: This is a direct teaching book that is short and to the point. The author lists questions at the end of the book to help direct discussion with kids.

Ideas for use:
*Read to the class when a kid plays too “rough” on the playground
*Talk about expressions on faces of the kids and discuss how they feel
*Good book to introduce and emphasize the concept of “respect”
*Use to discuss rules of safe play
*Good to use with Michelle Garcia Winner’s Behavior Maps. For example, talk about how one child’s unsafe behavior affects the play of friends and thus affects his own ability to have fun?

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

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