Those packing forms that are all kinds of shapes have been very useful for some unique and free artwork around Learning Charms. I let the kids pick the form that they wanted and then they turned it into whatever they "saw" (visual closure). We painted them, but markers & crayons would work too. They are so lightweight that they can be hung with a string and a pushpin. Time to go recycle bin diving!
I am currently helping one of my awesome elementary schools with ideas to build a sensory room/gym. A sensory room is a great resource for parents and schools to facilitate the sensory needs of a child in a safe way. In the picture above, you can see this is a pretty large sensory room. This was my gym in the first space that I leased for Learning Charms. The gym itself was a little over 1000 square feet. You can see the exposed steel beams in the ceiling which made it easy to hang swings. The owners of all the spaces I looked at thought I was crazy because the first thing I'd do was get a ladder and peep up in the ceiling -- looking for steel beams!
Below, you'll see a list and links to some must have's for your sensory room. A sensory room can be small-- you just will need to be careful and follow manufacturer's recommendations about padding and clearance. The recommendations below are for a medium sized (about a 10'x10') sensory room for kids aged 3.5 up to school aged children. The ideas below are all from Amazon and you can click and read more about the product. You can find these items all over the web, so look around and find what you need/want!
Lastly, you HAVE to supervise your child in a sensory room.
TO SWING OR NOT TO SWING?
This will depend on if you can easily tie into your ceiling for support. If you cannot, then it will depend on creating a structure that will support a swing (or buying one). A swing provides amazing amounts of proprioceptive and vestibular input, so if at all possible, get a swing system. If you don't have the ceiling support then look for swings such as below to use outdoors on a tree or existing playset.
Once a child has learned to identify uppercase letters, then its a good time to start learning how to "build" them . Its best to build the letters before actually writing them, because the building helps children remember the strokes needed and the large muscle movement is great because it helps them to integrate what they have learned. I used this simple activity with a child that was also working on core and upper body strength. He brought along a favorite stuffed animal, so I gladly let the doggie play too.
Platform swing or a therapy ball will work well too
Various wooden shapes (or make your own) from Handwriting Without Tears
Building Mat (in orange here, which is a 9.5x11 foam with smiley face in upper left corner)
Uppercase letter card (or if you child knows the strokes, then you can call out to them)
I spread out the shapes and he worked on finding and building each uppercase letter one at a time. I put some shapes further away so he'd have to pull and crawl to retrieve the shape (therefore using core and upper body strength).
Once he found the shapes needed, he built the letter on the mat beside the stimulus. You can modify the activity to be more or less challenging. For example: to make it harder, you could take away the stimulus cards and ask child to find a "big line and a big curve" and then see if they can make a letter with it (D).
There seems to be lots of questions each year about what is on the CAIS (Charlotte Area Independent Schools) tests for pre-schoolers. First of all, not all private schools participate in CAIS testing. The private schools that do require it (as of today) are:
Charlotte Christian School
Charlotte Country Day School
Charlotte Latin School
Charlotte Preparatory School
Providence Day School and
Trinity Episcopal School
The CAIS test looks at kindergarten readiness in a variety of areas. The CAIS testing for preschool students are administered by a licensed psychologist that is on the CAIS approved list. For the 2014-15 school year, there are 10 psychologists that can administer testing, including: Melanie Powell, Frank Gaskill (Southeast Psych) and Trey Ishee (Southeast Psych).
The assessment is the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-IV). Here are some of the areas it tests:
Often, we get occupational therapy referrals from these CAIS tests. The psychologists will note a deficit in an area that needs improvement and suggest O.T. prior to entrance to kindergarten. Really good psychologists will also note children who need to work on their pencil grasp, handwriting, motor skills and processing speed. Sometimes a referral is made to a speech therapist if verbal areas need improvement.
There are times when a child will get "conditional" acceptance to a school based on the criteria that a child makes improvement in a needed area. Schools may even ask for a written progress report from speech or occupational therapy to demonstrate adequate progress and parental involvement.
Could it be sensory processing disorder?
A good read - a Mother's blog about her son's journey.
Charlotte readers- great video about vestibular system
About the blogger: Stephanie Wick is a pediatric occupational therapist that founded and is lead O.T. at Learning Charms.
Read past Blog here