Make 2015 Your Top Year for Classroom Growth and Development

January 23rd, 2015

It’s January – a new calendar year and the midpoint on your academic calendar. What can you do to make it a successful year for your students’ growth, development and commitment to therapy success? How can you get them more involved and better engaged – the common denominators in high-quality learning?

Enhance their self-confidence.

In order to learn and make progress, students must believe in themselves. Cultivate their intrinsic motivation and encourage them to work autonomously, enjoy their relationships with others and feel that they’re strong and competent.

  • Self-direction is a touchstone of effective development. Nurture it by giving students opportunities before, during and after therapy to ask questions, participate and exercise some control over their own progress.
  • Offer chances for them to make decisions and solve problems. Help them process information and be self-confident without being told exactly what to do all the time.

Be accessible and approachable.

You are central to student growth and development. As noted in one recent study, if an educator is “perceived to be approachable, well prepared and sensitive to student needs, students are committed to work harder and get more out of the session, and are more willing to express their opinions.”

Challenge them.

Create learning environments that stretch and enrich children’s abilities. Easy assignments are not as effective as those that challenge students.

When children are reflecting, conjuring and making connections between ideas, growth flourishes.

Practice diversity.

Be sure that your therapy environment welcomes students from diverse backgrounds. To succeed, children must feel accepted and affirmed. Reflect diversity in your classroom themes and support materials.

Make it a team effort.

Communicate and collaborate with your students’ teachers, parents or guardians, and school administrators. Meet with them regularly to provide updates and share needs, ideas and suggestions.

  • Learn all you can about the individual requirements, passions and personalities of each student. Tap into their uniqueness so continue to get to know and understand one another. An approach that works very well with one student may need fine tuning before it yields results in another.

Make yours a 21st century classroom.

Today’s students have spent their entire lives surrounded by information. Take a multimedia approach to your therapy core content. Encourage youngsters as they demonstrate increased understanding utilizing such tools as speech and occupational therapy mobile apps. See our related posts to learn more.

The specialized recruitment team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services offers a wealth of resources, expertise and industry knowledge to help you enhance your school-based therapy career. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you realize your ongoing goals.

 

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Tips for the Classroom: Helping Students with the Letter “S”

January 16th, 2015

Mispronunciation of the “S” sound can be quite common in children who are just learning to speak. “S” is one of the toughest sounds to master, but most youngsters outgrow this challenge in due time. For those who don’t, therapy must be geared toward addressing the specific speech or articulation disorder that’s delaying normal development.

If students can’t pronounce “S” – try “T.”

“S” and “T” are produced in the same place in the mouth, by touching the tip of the tongue to the bumpy spot directly behind the top front teeth – the alveolar ridge. While “T” is pronounced by building up air pressure and popping it out in a single short burst, “S” is produced by pushing air out continually.

  • If a child can’t find their alveolar ridge, try gently rubbing it with a tongue depressor so they can feel it. After they place their tongue there, have them bite their teeth closed, smile, and blow the air out.

If a child can pronounce “S” but omits it from words or conversations, use a name or a signal.

You can make this entertaining by comparing the “S” sound to the noise an animal might make. For instance, children relate to cats hissing when they’re angry or snakes making a sound like an “S.”

  • It’s important to find a name that reminds the child of the sound. For instance, you could call it the “hissing sound” or the “snake sound.” Use the same name consistently and continually.
  • Give it a hand signal. This is a great way to draw attention to a particular sound without having to verbally direct a student to correct a mistake. One idea is to have children read one book each night and use the designated hand signal every time they produce an “S.”

If there’s frontal distortion, check for tongue thrust.

Tongue thrust is a form of abnormal swallowing, which can greatly affect the ability to pronounce certain sounds. Everyone swallows with tongue thrust during infancy, but eventually should develop a more mature swallowing pattern. For those who do not, tongue thrust therapy can be very effective.

  • Teach an analogy. Here’s where animal images again come into play. Tell your student to pretend their tongue is like a snake and their teeth are the snake’s cage. To keep the snake in the cage, their tongue must be behind their teeth when they make the “S” sound. Give them a mirror to self-check. Their teeth should stay tightly closed. They should not be able to see their tongue while producing an “S.”

Come back to “T” for students with lateral distortion.

Generally, when a child has a lateralized “S” it means they’re pushing air out the sides of their mouths, rather than the center. You can use the “T” airflow to build up to a perfect “S.”

  • Try not to let the child know that you’re working on “S” pronunciation. They may fall back into their old lateralized airflow patterns and it will be very hard to correct. Instead, refer to the “S” you’re building as a “long ticking sound.”

For additional tips and resources to enhance your school-based therapy practice – or to check out the latest career opportunities in your field – contact the specialized recruiters at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. Or, read our related posts to learn more.

 

Top-Viewed Mobile App Articles for 2014

December 29th, 2014

Mobile apps continued to grow in popularity during 2014 as convenient, resourceful therapy tools. They serve the dual purpose of facilitating rehab techniques for your students and helping you to achieve your ongoing clinical education objectives. The American Occupational Therapy Association recently reported that more than half of all OTs regularly utilize mobile apps in their practices.

Sorting through the every-increasing number of apps can be confusing. Judging by the responses of Cobb blog followers in 2014, the apps that drew the most interest among school-based therapists were one geared toward speech pathologists and two in the OT realm.

Virtual Speech Center’s Articulation Carnival

What’s more fun for kids than a carnival, complete with balloons, games and prizes? Developed to help students master the pronunciation of phonemes at the word, phrase and sentence levels, Virtual Speech Center’s Articulation Carnival app offers a winning formula that combines fun and learning.

  • Entertaining motivators help students as they practice different speech sounds. For every correct response, they earn a balloon. When they accumulate a certain number, they’re rewarded with carnival activities including basketball free throws, duck spraying, balloon dart throws and a hammer game.
  • There are 47 choices for selecting phonemes. You can choose the specific blend that you want each child to work on. You also can select specific words, as well as phrase and sentence levels.
  • The App Store price of $36.99 includes all sounds. You also can download a less expensive lite version and then purchase individual phonemes as needed.

New Bricklyn’s Magic Shoes

Learning to tie their shoes is a milestone in a child’s life. But it can be a frustrating process. The Magic Shoes app provides kids with easy and clever ways to master the task.

  • Magic Shoes follows a very simple, straightforward process. Step-by-step instructions and a video collection make learning fun. Classic shoe-tying techniques including “rabbit ears” and “tree squirrel” are utilized.
  • Customize the experience for each child. You can photograph each youngster when they’ve achieved their shoe-tying goal and email the news to friends and family. The app also offers a boy/girl themed interface and as noted by one reviewer, “worked like magic” thanks to its advanced, fun visual aids.
  • Magic Shoes can be downloaded for just $1.99 from the App Store.

Sebastian Miedtank’s Skill Training

The Skill Training app requires students to connect numbers in order without crossing or touching lines. Appropriate for upper elementary and older students, it helps develop concentration and improve eye-hand coordination.

  • Reasonably priced at $2.99, Skill Training is a valuable tool to assess overall skills improvement. It adapts easily to users’ age and ability levels.
  • This visual motor/spatial reasoning app requires drawing, motor planning and problem-solving activity. Motor accuracy and planning are required to complete number-connecting tasks, which can be done using a stylus or your finger. A magnifying glass is available for an up-close look at what’s happening.

To stay current with tools and resources to enhance your school-based practices and for tips to advance your career path, contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. Here’s to success in 2015!

A Recap of the Top Classroom Related Resources of 2014

December 24th, 2014

School-based speech language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists continued to dedicate themselves to self-improvement in 2014, especially when it came to getting organized and starting the new school year off on the right foot.

Among our most popularly sought out resources and blog posts were those related to maintaining and updating schedules and making the right preparations to start the school year strong. Now that we’re taking holiday breaks and starting off the New Year, it’s an opportune time for a refresher on these valuable topics.

Be Prepared

Whether it’s a new school year in the fall or a new calendar year in January, some stress is natural as you ready yourself and your students for the months ahead. Turn that stress into positive energy with the right preparation.

  • Plan ahead. Get your room or work area organized. Refresh and update your lesson plans. Do some extracurricular reading. Just as you did at the end of last summer, get back into your healthy sleep routine gradually by going to bed and rising a few minutes earlier each day before school starts up again.
  • Renew your commitment to connect with students, parents and colleagues. Be a conversation starter. When you connect with students and families, you’re more effective at meeting their needs. And when you connect with coworkers, you can better collaborate to serve students, as well as garner personal and professional support.

More Tips for Success

Among our tips to help you embrace each day’s challenges and progress toward your therapy goals is the use of more mobile apps in 2015.

Check out our related blogs, including our year-end wrap-up of the top viewed mobile apps in 2014. They’re inexpensive and user friendly and can be used in students’ homes as well as the classroom.

About Your Schedule

Keep your schedule on track by getting organized. You probably already work with a school-year calendar, but now’s the time to bring it up to date for 2015.  It’s also a good time to update your student folders and files. Has anyone moved away during the holidays? Will new students be joining you? Update all identifying information, data sheets and related materials as much as you can before the bell rings on the first day back in January.

The school-based experts at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services offer a wealth of resources and information to help you meet your career goals, whether your vision is to grow in your current position or seek professional advancement elsewhere in 2015. To learn more, read our related posts or contact us today.

Encouraging Standout Students to Assist and Encourage Others

December 12th, 2014

Numerous research studies have supported the theory that children – and adults – often learn best from their peers, as learning is a truly social experience. And while the role of teacher or therapist can never be underestimated, your best role at certain times may be that of gatekeeper: Provide the necessary guidance, then stand back and allow collaborative learning to succeed.

It’s like putting a positive spin on peer pressure. Having students help each other is an extremely powerful classroom technique, as it improves children’s achievements, perseverance, persistence and overall attitude toward school.

From Preschool to Harvard

One of the keys to interactive learning is encouraging students to demonstrate kind, helpful behavior toward each other. Researchers have found that this results in greater academic success for children, as well as the development of better relationships with teachers and friendships with classmates.

  • In a 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Science, 18-month old children were shown photos of household objects, like a tea kettle, featuring different backgrounds: two dolls facing each other, a single doll, or two dolls facing away from each other. Those who say the dolls facing each other were three times more likely than the others to spontaneously help a person in need. All it took was a gentle reminder of human connectedness to prompt kids to reach out and help someone else.
  • At Harvard University, physics professor Eric Mazur incorporated interactive learning into a course that involved solving complicated problems. The result was significantly better knowledge retention. Scores of other faculty members adopted his approach.

Make it Happen

A few simple, effective, research-based tips can help you encourage students to encourage others:

  • When you set up your therapy area, hang posters of people interacting and helping each other. Such visual clues not only prompt students to imitate them, but also let them know that you personally value this kind of behavior.
  • Greet students every day. Children are more likely to behave with kindness and encouragement if they feel a sense of belonging. A study of 158 tenth and twelfth-graders found that those who felt connected to their teachers and other students scored higher in empathy – a building block of prosocial behavior.
  • Use a warm, positive tone of voice. Start this on the first day of school and continue it throughout the year. Modeling kind speech with students tends to have the effect of them positively interacting with one another.
  • Provide students with opportunities to assist each other. For instance, when they work in cooperative learning groups, inform them that one of their responsibilities is to help one another.

Read our related articles or contact Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services for additional tools, research and in-depth knowledge to support and advance your school therapy career. And check out our job listings for current opportunities in the Atlanta region and beyond.

Occupational Therapy Tips: Motivating Students to Excel

December 5th, 2014

When working with your students, how can you light that spark that motivates them to excel – taking what they’ve learned during therapy and using it in meaningful and rewarding ways in the “real world?” Because that’s really the bottom line, isn’t it? Successful participation in their roles as students, friends and family members is what will ultimately enhance children’s emotional well-being, physical and mental health, and social competence.

Use these tips to get students’ OT learning juices flowing:

Tailor the challenge to the child.

People are motivated to learn when the task matches their ability and skill level. It shouldn’t be so easy as to be boring nor so difficult as to be frustrating.

  • Deliberately fashion the exercise so students are working at the very edge of their abilities. Then keep raising the bar as they improve.

Let them know you care.

If your students like you, they’ll perform better for you. It’s a simple fact of human nature. This doesn’t mean you should sacrifice learning success for your popularity as a “fun therapist.” But do let them see you as a caring human being with a true interest in them as individuals.

  • Greet them every day by name. Make a point of asking specific questions about their lives – siblings, happenings at home or their favorite hobbies and interests. Be respectful. Use humor when appropriate.

Tell them why it matters.

Especially when doing repetitive tasks that can become tedious, be sure children understand the long-term benefits of succeeding at therapy. Even kindergarteners will work harder at handwriting if you take the time to tell them they’re building their finger muscle strength to help them communicate and learn – not just bossing them around. 

Show your enthusiasm.

While experts debate the benefits of rewards programs, something as simple as genuine praise from their therapist can go a long way towards students’ success. Nothing is more contagious than your own excitement about learning.

Continuously foster family participation.

Last but not least, continually involve family members and caregivers in children’s therapy. Your students’ desire to learn is directly tied to their fundamental, caring relationships with their parents, other family members, and childcare providers.

  • Time spent with family members between therapy sessions is vital. Research has shown that rewarding responses from caregivers motivate children to learn, be happy about their accomplishments, and take more pleasure in play and other activities of daily living.

For more resources to add to your school-based therapy toolbox, read our related posts or contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today. We can help as you grow and advance your successful career strategy.

 

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Top Apps for Occupational Therapists: iDress for Weather

November 28th, 2014

For individuals with disabilities, something as simple as dressing properly for the weather can be a major step towards day-to-day independence. iDress for Weather was inspired by developers who sought to support those whose cognitive processing or memory is hampered by conditions including autism, illnesses such as stroke or Alzheimer’s disease, or occurrences such as traumatic brain injuries.

Developed by Pebro Productions for iPhones and iPads, iDress for Weather is priced at $1.99. It was updated to version 2.5.1 in August 2014, which introduced more advanced bug fixes to increase the accuracy of animation.

Key Features

Connecting weather conditions to clothing choices can be a difficult concept to teach or learn. By utilizing customized photos and individualized images, iDress for Weather makes this task easier for individuals of all ages.

  • Each day, based on the high temperature (which, like other weather conditions on the app, is a function of the closest weather satellite or station), a closet icon appears. It presents a picture of the recommended clothing to remember, based on user preferences. You can substitute your own photos for the drawings provided, which enables users to actually see their own hats, coats, boots and other apparel in the “closet.”
  • In the afternoon, once the day’s high temperature starts to drop, the closet displays clothing appropriate to the overnight low.
  • Each user sets their own temperature range that defines each closet. Regions around the world differ dramatically in how temperatures are perceived by individuals who live there. While 70 degrees may be “very hot” to someone in Fargo, North Dakota, this classification is more likely defined as at least 95 degrees in southern Florida.
  • The app’s location setting automatically saves the last 10 locations searched. You can identify locations using a GPS or zip code feature.
  • Current temperatures are boldly displayed and related graphics are clear and colorful.
  • Humidity and wind speed and direction may be displayed if preferred.

“Clearly a Winner”

iDress for Weather has been acclaimed as “fantastic” by satisfied customers. One commented that, “from idea to finished product, it’s a winner with a clearly defined audience.”

Stay in touch with the pros at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services for news on the latest tools and technology for your school-based therapy practice. Read our related posts or contact us today.

Top Apps for Speech Therapists: My First AAC

November 21st, 2014

Apple’s Education App Store recently selected My First AAC by Project Injini as “New and Noteworthy” – and once you try it out, you’ll quickly see why.

My First AAC an innovative augmentative and alternative communication app for your iPad, specifically designed for toddlers and preschoolers with delayed speech or severe speech disorders.

A Reflection of Natural Speech Development

My First AAC is highly intuitive and child friendly, helping children to effectively communicate with family, caregivers, teachers and others whom they meet in the course of everyday life. Developed in collaboration with a team of speech pathologists, it offers icons that reflect children’s natural speech development. The app is appropriate for those aged 18 months and older.

Among the features of My First AAC are:

  • More than 250 icons organized by category.
  • A child’s voice used in all audio files. Among the app’s many customization features is the ability to choose either a boy or a girl’s voice – and related settings adjust accordingly.
  • Excellent animation including icons with sign language for words and phrases such as “more” and “all done.”
  • The ability to recognize personalized information like a child’s name or phone number.
  • A customizable screen layout that allows you to display just two large icons or up to eight smaller ones per category.
  • The option to hide and unhide icons, create an entire new screen using an icon library, and lock the screen to prevent scrolling and keep a child focused on a single area.

Boost Children’s Confidence

My First AAC has received accolades from therapists, educators and parents – generating excitement around this app that could help set standards for lifelong progress in young children.

  • One speech-language pathologist recently noted that, “I use My First AAC with some of my preschool students diagnosed with CAS (childhood apraxia of speech), ASD (autism spectrum disorders) and Down syndrome. Using the app has helped to boost their confidence much more quickly than the other expensive low and high-tech options on the market today. Proof is in my students’ progress and with each new word or phrase they learn and master.”
  • And this comment came from the parents of a small child with Angelman Syndrome: “This has been a wonderful app for him to communicate with us. Easy to use. We customize with our own photos and voice, yet they also have a wide variety of icon artwork that we use as well. Thank you!”

My First AAC is priced at $24.99 on the Apple I Tunes store.

To learn more about this and other resources available to advance your school-based therapy career, contact one of the specialized recruiters at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

3 Ways to Start Connecting with Unfocused Learners

November 14th, 2014

If you haven’t already encountered an unfocused learner during the course of your day, you most likely will. For these students, the simple act of paying attention is a constant uphill struggle. They tend to be immediately distracted by background noise or other stimuli, prone to misplacing the materials they need to complete an assignment, or have trouble distinguishing between the relevant and irrelevant aspects of a task.

Unfocused learners also may:

  • Appear disorganized and be apt to make careless mistakes because they’re simply unable to focus.
  • Need help structuring their time including materials, workspace, group dynamics and transitional times, as well as appropriately handling choices.

As their therapist, you need to use clear, consistent communication that tells these students exactly when, how and for how long they’ll need to work on a particular process. You become their manager, showing and modeling to them how to plan, organize and successfully complete their work.

Walk them Through It

Before children begin working on a task, have them identify and list the steps for completing it, including time estimates both for each step and for full completion. Write the estimates on the board so you can prompt students. They also can write the list on a notepad or index card and cross items off as they go along.

  • You may want to provide a timer to help children monitor their work.
  • Give ample warning when an activity is about to change or it’s time to move to the next step.
  • Read directions aloud and have students follow along, underlining or highlighting the most important material, as well as key words and explanations.

Break It Down into Manageable Steps

On a chart or card, draw a model that children can follow visually. Color code each step and have students compare their work to the model.

  • Give reduced assignments to inattentive students so they can complete seatwork.
  • Reduce the amount of visual material children need to pay attention to by drawing a circle around or tracing with your finger the most important information on a chart or diagram.
  • Unfocused learners need to experience success. This will be more easily accomplished if you give them short, very specific tasks so that the time they initially spend on them is brief. Work assigned as independent seatwork must be challenging, but not frustrating. Only after success with shorter tasks can you gradually increase the time you expect a child to stay focused.

Reward Success

Use class rewards for staying on task and paying attention. Distractible students tend to concentrate better when they’re consistently acknowledged – and studies have shown that rewarding one student often has the ripple effect of improving others’ attention skills.

  • Use the “5 More Rule” whereby an inattentive child commits to work solidly for five minutes or five pages. When they finish, praise their success and ask them to work solidly for five more.
  • Pay attention to children when they pay attention to you. Acknowledge good listening and reward the class. Focus your behavior management on praise and encouragement rather than giving negative attention to negative behavior.

Are you looking for additional resources to enhance your school-based therapy career? Or seeking to take that career to the next level? Partner with one of the specialized recruiters at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services and take advantage of our knowledge, expertise and market intelligence. Contact us today!

Understanding and Capitalizing On Breakthrough Moments in the Classroom

November 10th, 2014

What does a breakthrough moment look like in the classroom?

It’s that instant when your students realize how rewarding or fun learning can be. Their eyes light up, their enthusiasm is genuine and contagious, and as an educator, your sixth sense tells you that a key connection has been made. It’s nothing short of amazing, no matter how many times you see it happen.

  • An autistic child who finds simple tasks like taking turns overwhelming one day gravitates to an interactive table activity and joins in. They become engaged with the other children and are no longer struggling through the day alone.
  • A student with motor skill challenges who never before wrote the first letter of their name finally does so, first on a large table pad and then on a piece of paper.

Often, these are random events that occur when you least expect them. Be ready to capitalize on them and provide an invaluable learning experience. Such moments benefit children by stretching their imaginations, awakening their curiosity and stimulating their brains.

Cultivate Student Skills

Use breakthrough moments to foster your students’ learning and development, including their social and emotional skills. In doing so, you offer the added benefit of helping them build confidence and achieve success. Now, that’s a good day!

  • Observe to see if children show interest in the unexpected event. If so, allow them to participate. For instance, a teacher was tallying up the day’s attendance by counting aloud while their students completed an activity at their desks. One of the youngsters spontaneously joined in, counting on their own. Before long, others were doing it, too. This routine task turned into a valuable lesson on numbers.
  • Don’t stop children’s activities to “correct” them. Allow them to complete the experience without stressing them with the right or wrong way to complete a “teachable moment scenario.” You can work on the details later. For now, don’t interrupt the momentum. Just let them stretch and grow.
  • Use what you observe to plan for future lessons and activities. As you do so, model the appropriate behavior so children will naturally correct what might have been off.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Reward your students, using small but meaningful things like stickers or inexpensive prizes. Remember to include everyone, even those who may have been too shy or introverted to “stand out.” It’s a win for everyone, after all.

The experts at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services offer a wealth of resources to enhance your school-based therapy career. Read our related posts or contact us today for more information.