OT Corner

An OT intern reflects on her semester at PACTT

Laura Robertson was an Occupational Therapy, Level 2, intern at PACTT during Spring and Summer 2015. Here she reflects on her experience:

For the past 3 months I have been interning with PACTT's OT department. I had the chance to present at the new employee orientation, co-lead cooking groups, go on outings with the students, take part in Field Day, participate in student IEP/EDCs and perform part of their 3-year evaluations. I’ve modified some of the equipment used to teach students buttoning and created an independent work station task for student to practice buttoning that can be adapted to student’s needs. While I was here I also got to participate in planning for a new sensory space that will be created at the school.

My last few weeks here I have been helping put together new recipes for classroom cooking. The goal is to teach the students basic recipes that they can do at home in a safe manner and expose the students to different combinations of smells, tastes and textures. If these recipes are a hit, they will become part of the regular school year rotation. 

As my time here at PACTT comes to an end I’ve been reflecting back on all I have learned and how wonderful the staff has been. They have been very welcoming to me and have been patient while I learn. I’ve learned a lot in this internship and will be able to apply what I learned to whatever setting I work in.

To participate in an internship at PACTT, please complete our Volunteer Request form.

OT Corner: Planning for winter

In this OT Corner, Lill shares resources for dealing with the tricky transition from warm weather to the layers of a winter wardrobe:

Transitions are tough, but they're even tougher for our students with autism. It seems like no sooner have they adjusted to the no-jacket, yes-sandals, beach-going summer fun, than it's time to don the boots, hats and gloves of winter.

So, what can we do to help make it just a little easier?

Make it part of the routine: So many of our students thrive on structure and routine. So, start adding things to their get-ready routine. One of our students had his very own "ready for recess" schedule, that listed everything he needed to put on that day - hat, coat, gloves, boots, scarf - weather depending, of course. He knew he had to check the schedule, and the teachers had the flexibility to add / subtract picture symbols for whatever he would need that day.

Make it fun: If I put on my hat, gloves and coat (which I'm not particularly fond of doing) for the first time this season, then get in the car and go to the doctor, it's not going to make me want to do it again. Reward the behavior with something positive, while you're teaching it - time on the swing, fun with bubbles, etc. Caution: Make sure it's something that's not SO rewarding that it'll trap you into three months of begging / meltdowns because you can't always drop everything and go to Target.

Don't give up: Remember, not everyone gets it the first time. Be sure clothes are familiar and comfortable. Set reasonable expectations - many of our students have a higher tolerance for cold than we do. That wool hat might push them into heat-overdrive ... until it's cold enough to make a difference. Try different fabrics / styles. And, in the end, we've found that when it gets cold enough, even the most intolerant student will finally keep those gloves on!

More ideas: We came across this page from The Autism File with some more great tips for helping children (and adults) with autism to adjust to Mother Nature's changes. 

If you have ideas we've missed, add them to the comments below and let us know! 


To stim, or not to stim?

We all have things we do to keep ourselves calm, alert, or engaged. How many of us fidget with a pen or paperclip during stressful meetings, tap a toe, or ...? Our students with autism do the very same thing ... but their "stims" are usually more obvious, and at times can be less socially acceptable. But we all need to regulate ourselves, right? We need strategies for keeping ourselves calm and relaxed. So how do we as parents, teachers, and caregivers decide the difference between reinforceable and replaceable behaviors?

I came across a really neat blog today (https://www.squag.com/2234/) and had to share this perfectly logical chart:

The blogger, Anabelle Listic, is a 27 year-old artist living is Seattle and is a film and digital photographer. Anabelle has autism and is profoundly visual. And she has a wonderfully unique perspective. (Her website is anabellelistic.com - if you have time, check out her awesome photography there, too!)

Most of the time, our participants can't tell us why they do things, or what they need. We often have to play detective, or employ a great deal of trial and error, to figure it out. For me, at least, it's eye-opening to be able to hear perspectives on autism from the people who LIVE it each day. Thank you, Anabelle!

OT Corner: Sensory Processing Difficulties

"It's like a traffic jam in your head, with conflicting signals quickly coming from all directions, so that you don't know how to make sense of it all."

-- Author and parent Nancy Peske, describing her son's sensory processing issues

This description is in the first of a three-part series on sensory processing disorders, presented by Child Mind Institute. (You can read the entire article HERE.)

It's rare to find one of our students who doesn't have some kind of unique sensory need. As we know, there's no one solution for everyone, and we know that sometimes we need to try lots of things before we find one that works. Luckily, we also have an Occupational Therapist with all sorts of creative solutions! 

Have a sensory-related question? Tap into Lill's 13 years of experience at PACTT. Email questions or ideas to LillOT@pactt.org, comment directly on this blog post, or use our Contact form.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Introducing ... The OT Corner

This week, we welcome a new voice to the Principal’s Desk blog. Lill Tarnow, PACTT’s Occupational Therapist, brings us “The OT Corner.” In what we hope to become a regular feature, Lill will tap into her 13 years of experience at PACTT, share ideas, and answer questions. You can email Lill your questions or ideas at LillOT@pactt.org, comment directly on this blog post, or use the site’s Contact form. We want to hear from you!

With that, I’ll turn the keyboard over to Lill!

Hi PACTT Families and Friends, 

I have spent the past week talking with co-workers and wracking my brain to come up with something really stupendous to share with you all for my first post to the OT Corner. Alas, stupendous seems to be beyond my grasp right now, but Paula gave me a great idea. Put together a list of ideas and activities that could help parents enjoy the upcoming 3-week summer break.

Well ... I can certainly tell you how important structure and routine are, but you probably already know that. And, honestly, I don’t have any “expert” ideas about, or experience in, dealing with young people during school breaks.

However, after 13 years at PACTT, I do know who the REAL EXPERTS on school breaks are! I am referring, of course, to all of you wonderful people who love and live with individuals with autism. So, please - take just a few moments and send me one (or more if you like) of the ideas that have helped to make your summer break more enjoyable (and less stressful). With your help over the next week, I will be able post a list of activities and ideas that have been tested and proven effective.

So, welcome to the OT Corner. Please let me know what you would like to see here. I hope this can be a place where we can share information related to occupational therapy that is meaningful and relevant to you. I will be happy to address any areas of interest or concern that you might have. If you have questions, I will do my best to find answers. If you hear about a new product or treatment idea, please share, so I can be sure to stay as up to date as possible.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to all of your great ideas for summer break.

OTishly yours,