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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: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Human-gnome-session-reboot.svg#filelinks

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

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I Am Love

 

 

At first glance I wasn’t so sure I’d find this yoga app useful but when I tried it out with our 6-year-old group kids, I was pleasantly surprised.  Presented in a story format with water color illustrations, the I Am Love app shows 2 children going on an adventure in Egypt, looking at mountains, flying like laughing doves, finding sea turtles, riding dolphins and so on until the final relaxation.

Several aspects of this app were particularly interesting for our kiddos and me.  First, the story is continuous, connecting the poses to each other.  This creates opportunities for fluid movement rather than assuming one pose and then another.  For example, the “mountain” pose turns into the “laughing dove”, diving down and “kissing knees” before landing at the bottom and seeing a “thirsty lizard”.  Secondly, the story itself is a guided visualization.  We have only had the opportunity to use this app once in group but I am eager to try it several times to appreciate the effect of the guided imagery with repetition and familiarity.  Thirdly, each page contains little added extras in 3 corners of the page.  Click on the “pose” corner and children demonstrating how to assume the pose will be revealed along with verbal instructions.  Click on the “Breathe” button in the upper left corner and the page actually breaths with you, as the picture gets smaller and larger.  Click on the “Guess What?” button in the lower left corner and facts about nature and the body are explained.

Returning from active play is always a tough transition for kids who struggle with self-regulation.  Often, I find that moving directly into yoga is not effective, as it requires the kids to shift sets a little too quickly.  The I Am Love app proved to offer the just right level of activity, cognitive interest, visual stimulation, and slowly winding down movement to ensure an easier transition.  I am looking forward to using it again soon.

Kidsyogajourney website

Jill Perry MHA, MS OTR/L

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.

superstretch

Move, Play, Breathe

We all know the benefits of yoga for people of every age.  Let me preface this blog by stating that I am an amateur yogi.  I have participated in yoga classes and do light yoga at home but I am by no means a yoga instructor.  We have been using yoga with the kids in our social adventures groups to help them with emotional and physical self-regulation.   In the group kids take turns choosing a card from a yoga card deck, standing on our “yoga mat” (which is really a colorful area rug placed over wall-to-wall industrial carpet), and leading the group in the yoga pose.   Lately, our kids have been grumbling.  “I don’t want to do his pose,”  “I don’t feel like doing that”, “I don’t like yoga”, and so on.

Enter, The Adventures of Super Stretch, a fun yoga app for kids.  A cartoon super hero introduces the concept that breathing, calmness, and positive energy can be achieved through yoga.  Immediately, Super Stretch, floating in space with cape flying, begins talking about yoga, and engages our young kids quickly.  Andrew chooses the frog pose by touching one of the 12 cutely illustrated pictures on the screen.  Fierce the Frog jumps around as Super Stretch talks about how a frog moves.  Next, 2 young children appear on the screen demonstrating the yoga pose or action as Super Stretch talks.  Finally, calm music continues until another pose is chosen.   We show the pose, repeat it as many times as necessary, then turn the iPad around so only the music is playing as the kids assume the yoga pose.

One of my favorite parts of this app is that the children on the screen are quite young and their efforts are age appropriate and imperfect.  Andrew, who chose the pose, has motor planning challenges and often says “I don’t want to do that” when he fears he cannot do what is asked.  When the kids on the screen wobble around and lose their balance Andrew is able to drum up sufficient courage to try each yoga pose.

I didn’t intend to make this an app review but Super Stretch Yoga is a fun and functional app that is easy to use and so effective, I couldn’t resist…Namaste.

Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

If you found the ideas in this blog helpful, you will definitely appreciate the activity ideas in the Social Adventures app available on the Social Adventures - all4mychild