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The SPD Companion, Issue #018-- The Insider Secrets; using SI theory to solve problems at school
September 06, 2007

Welcome to the September 2007 edition of The SPD Companion Newsletter. I am so pleased you have taken the time to sit down with me this month! Thank you for your time and continued support. This month's topic? The Insider Secrets; Using SI theory to help solve problems at school... (Part II of The Insider Secrets Three Part Series)

If you did not have a chance to read Part I of this series, you can do so here: The Insider Secrets; Using SI Theory To Help Solve Problems At Home... Part I Ok, onto this month's featured "Insider Secrets"!

These recommendations and modifications come from Anita Bundy, ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA. This list of modifications and recommendations were generated by OT's, for OT's, but could and should be used by parents, caregivers, teachers and other professionals or family members who interact with our SPD children on a frequent basis.



May 30, 1992

Anita Bundy, ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Sponsored by:
The Shriver Center Occupational Therapy Department
Waltham, MA


Below is a list of the ideas generated by the small group problem solving sessions during this workshop. The ideas are not presented in any order, but rather they represent the order in which they were taken off the group recorder sheets. Our thanks to the parent who assisted Dr. Bundy by sharing some of the ideas she learned in working with her own child and to the OT's who were also willing to share ideas with the group. All of these are included below.

And remember, as was stated in last month's issue, I have also personally added some of my own ideas to this list. What I have added will be in italics, so as not to be mistaken for Anita Bundy's work. (My personal thanks as well to Anita, the parents and OT's who contributed to this discussion!)

I do hope you find help by using some of these strategies!


Child Has Trouble Sitting In Class Due To Restlessness

1. Sitting on therapy balls or T-stool in class.

2. Give the child breaks where he can move such as taking a note to the office.

3. Crabwalk or crawl to other areas of the room if this can be worked appropriately into the classroom.

4. Make sure the child's feet touch the floor.

5. Provide different textures for the child to sit on or to put under his/her feet (e.g. Different densities of rugs, tiles, sand paper, sheepskin, beanbag, a beaded car seat cover that has something under it to prevent noise). Can also do this with the child's shoes off.

6. Have the reading group done while the children are prone; do writing in prone; alternate with kneel-sitting.

7. Provide the child with a desk with the chair attached.

8. Provide a work station where the child can stand to work.

9. Have the child wear suspenders for more proprioceptive input/tactile input.

10. Place bungee cord or Theraband around the legs of the desk (or chair) so the child has something to push or pull against with his/her feet.

11. For a low tone child, make sure things are at their eye level so they do not have to crane their necks to see.

12. Help the teacher understand that it may take so much cognitive and emotional energy to sit still, that the child may not have enough energy available for learning. Just let the child fidget.

13. Give the child a job such as cleaning off the shelves in the classroom so he/she can do this while the teacher is talking or at other times during the class. This gives the child a purpose to get up and move.

14. Provide a period when the child/children do joint compressions and provide deep pressure to themselves as they are sitting at their desk. The therapist who offered this suggestion does this exercise to the music of “Bermuda Bahama”, but children sometimes bring their own songs in for the cassette player. During the song the therapist or teacher leads the children in:

- shifting their weight in sitting side to side

- press hands together

- put hands on top of head and press down

- cross arms and press on shoulders with opposite hand

- hands on knees and press down

- hands under opposite elbows and press up

- rotate shoulders side to side; rotate upper trunk side to side

- tilt head rhythmically side to side

- brush hands down arms firmly

- eventually add the component of doing the above movements in sequence

- begin with three minutes and work up to 10 minutes

- children should remain in their seats, but should be allowed to be physical and noisy. Children were felt to be better able to settle down and work after the session.

15. Sitting in a rocking chair for periods during the day.

16. Gum chewing or chew on a “chewy” (e.g. rubber tubing or pencil toppers)

17. Weighted vest.

18. Let child play with a koosh ball or stress ball.

19. Give pressure on the shoulders and head.

20. Turn off the fluorescent lights.

21. Put tape on the floor to mark the position for the chair.

22. Put dycem on the chair for the child to sit on.

23. Make a large foot rest that has holes for the chair legs. This supports the feet and keeps the chair from moving.

24. Help the child establish his/her own boundaries by using a carpet square. (Might work particularly well with preschool and kindergarten children.)

25. Keep expectations at a realistic level; don't expect the child to sit too long.

26. Give the child a desk at both the front and the back of the room so he/she can move between class activities.

27. One therapist had success with a child using a vibrator. At first the therapist provided stimulation to the hands and the feet. The child eventually began to use the vibrator at home and after a month was reported to self calm for the entire day after using the vibrator at home. For this child, the therapist also reported that it helped the child's sleep problems at night.

28. Another therapy idea was to have the child prone over the large therapy ball. The child hugs the ball and the therapist uses the vibrator on the child's back.

Child Licks Hands When He/She Writes

1. Have the child do a “push up” in his/her seat before writing.

Child Can Print But Can't Write In Cursive

1. Child needs to practice cursive daily.

2. Might wait until the child is in the third grade and his/her system is better developed to support cursive script.

3. Have the child learn his/her signature in cursive, but let him/her do other activities in print.

4. Use cursive for such tasks as spelling where less writing is required and printing for essays etc. Do not ask the child to do too many things at one time, e.g. learn cursive and use it when he/she has to think of the content of a task as well as concentrate on the spelling of words.

5. Use staff development workshops to talk to the teachers about how to teach cursive.

6. Put a model of the letters on the child's desk for easy reference.

7. Use Handwriting Without Tears Program (for cursive).

Child Is 12 ½ Years Old And Cannot Do Cursive. Hates School And School Work

1. Try keyboarding.

2. Talk to child about what motivates him/her.

3. Practice with functional writing tasks such as filling out job applications.

4. Let him see that lots of adults print.

5. Only work on cursive if the child is really motivated to learn.

6. Decrease the child's anxiety about the task by doing some movement activities before practice.

7. One therapist mentioned a teacher that did yoga or aerobic exercises before handwriting class to get the children ready.

Child fails to press hard enough with a pencil

1. Use a vibrating pen.

2. Use sandpaper underneath the paper.

3. Try felt tip marker or pencil grip.

4. Use mechanical pencil to help them regulate pressure (lead will break if press too hard)

Poor Slant Of Paper

1. Put masking tape as a guide on the desk.

Child Talks A Lot But Can't Get Ideas On Paper Despite Adequate Handwriting

1. Have the child tape record his/her ideas, then copy them down from the tape. The idea is to have the child repeat what he/she has said to slow down the thinking.

Child Needs To Talk In Class “Right Away”

1. Teach verbal self-cues (e.g. “stop, listen, learn”).

Child Need To Talk To Teacher “Right Now”

1. Make sure the child understands that there are times when the teacher cannot talk to him/her.

2. Provide the child with a timer so that when an incident happens the teacher can set the timer (or the child can set it) for the length of time the teacher feels he/she needs before he/she can talk to the child.

3. Teacher provides the child with a set time to talk.

Child Waits To Talk But Then Cannot Remember What He/She Wanted To Say

1. Have the child cross his/her fingers so he/she can remember what it is he/she wanted to say until called on.

2. Have the child write a two or three word reminder of what he/she wants to say on a sticky note until called on.

3. Also remember that it is normal for kindergarten and first grade children to raise their hand to a question and only try to think of the answer once they are called on. Sometimes they find that they don't have an answer!

Child's Dyspraxia Or Other SPD Problems Are Not Understood By School Personnel Or Family. A Related Problem Is Mistrust On The Part Of Parents

1. Make an audio tape explaining dyspraxia or other SPD problems and how it can affect the child.

2. Work with the parents and have them identify the problems that they are having at home with the child. Develop a home program with them.

3. Develop a system of ongoing communication such as a note book, telephone calls, etc.

4. Initiate communication from the very beginning.

Child Does Not Like Finger Paint Or Chalk On His/Her Hands

1. Have the whole class throw “magic” gloves into the air and then put on the invisible gloves, gloves that are very tight so they must be “pushed” on, giving proprioceptive input to the hands.

2. Practice some hand exercises (do it to music, songs, or with fingerplays).

3. Keep a dry washcloth or brush in the child's desk so he/she can use this whenever he/she needs sensory input.

Child Cannot Get His/Her Desk Organized. Things Are All Over The Floor

1. Use color coded file folders to organize papers.

2. Teach the child how to stack the books from large to small.

3. Have the child use a book shelf for storage instead of the desk (also has the advantage for some children of allowing them to get up out of their desk periodically).

4. Have a box on the floor for storage.

5. Velcro strip (or dycem) at the top of desk to use for items such as crayon boxes, etc.

6. Give the child a lift top desk so he/she can see inside.

7. Put the child's things in a tub or box that slides in and out of the desk.

8. Brain storm solutions with the child.

9. Have the children work in teams to put desks in order.

10. Put a picture in the bottom of the child's desk indicating where objects go.

11. Make dividers for the child's desk.

12. Work with the child on the process; divide the process into steps.

13. Use magnet clips on the side of the desk for loose paper.

Therapist Is Under Pressure; Schedule Is Too Full

1. Follow a schedule.

2. Establish priorities – can't do everything.

3. Treat similar students with similar problem areas together, if possible

Child Has Trouble Keeping His/Her Place When Reading Or Demonstrates Other Oculomotor Problems

1. Use a vertical surface for reading and writing. Office Max was said to have some inexpensive, portable slat top surfaces.

2. Use a book holder.

3. Use an index card to have the child keep his place. Try having the child hold it above the line he/she is reading or try an index card that has a “window” cut into it so the child can move it along one word at a time.

4. Have the child seen by a good pediatric or developmental optomotrist. One therapist indicated it is best if you can go with the child so you can ask questions.

5. One therapist found that a child had less difficulty reading if the print was on a blue paper. It was noted that colored paper has less glare. (even yellow lined paper works better for some than the traditional white lined paper)

6. Try to eliminate eye movements by some creative photocopying of work sheets.

Child Has Difficulty Organizing Math Problems On The Paper

1. Fold the paper to help divide the work.

2. Turn the lined paper vertically so the child can use the columns to organize his/her work.

3. Use graph paper.

4. Place tape guides on the paper.

5. Enlarge the paper on the copier.

Child Has A Poor Pencil Grip

1. Teach the child to “tip, flip, and tuck”. Have the child hold the pencil at the tip, use the other hand to flip it into the web space, and then tuck the middle finger.

2. Cue the child to use “lobster pincers” (thumb and index) to hold the pencil and the middle finger to “keep it from falling”.

3. Cut the triangular or circular pencil grips down and let them help cue the child where to grasp. Other ideas to help give the child cues is to put scotch tape at the end of the pencil where the child is to grip or to place a groove in the pencil or wind a rubber band around the pencil.

4. Have the child write on a vertical surface.

5. Use raised line paper.

Child Has Difficulty Switching Activities

1. Warn the child verbally or by flashing the lights or have a few moments of quiet time before a change in activity occurs.

2. Try a buddy system.

3. Place the activities on the board and erase each activity as it is done.

4. Give the child a list of the scheduled activities or use a flip card system at the child's desk.

5. Have the teacher provide a ½ hour at the end of the day for all children to finish any unfinished work.

6. Use weighted products for location changes (e.g., new classroom, lunch, specials, etc.)

Child Never Seems To Bring The Right Books Home To Do Homework

1. Lend the child an extra set of books so he/she can keep one set at home.

2. Have the child keep a book bag or other container handy at their desk so assignments can be placed in the the bag/container as each assignment is given rather than waiting to remember them at the end of the day.

3. Color code bookcovers with colored notebooks and folders, a different color for each subject.

Child Turns Off The Lights In Classroom; Shuts Off Lamps As Well As Fluorescent Lights

1. Place tinted, transparent sheets used for theater lights over the lights to dim the glare.

2. Look at the room for other possible lighting sources.

3. Find out from parent if child also does this at home.

4. Use of larger appliance container boxes to make an “office” for the child to do his/her work in if the lights are bothering him/her.

5. See if a dimmer switch can be placed on the lights.

6. Provide a calming environment for the child. Child may become bothered by light when he/she gets aroused.

7. Allow child to wear lightly tinted sunglasses if nothing else can be done.

Child Cannot Keep Up With The Pace Of The Class

1. Problem solve with the teacher about what she is trying to teach and the best way to get there for this child.

2. Have the child do every other problem.

3. Some teachers might have difficulty doing something different for one child out of “fairness” to the other children. Help the teacher understand that “fairness” is giving each child what he needs. Most children understand this and doing something different for one child is generally not a problem.

What If Child Does Not Like Adaptations Because He Feels “Different”?

1. In some instances, parents or teachers may fear the child will reject the adaptation, but the child does not see him/herself as different.

2. Often the teacher's attitude is important. Is the teacher comfortable with the adaptation?

3. Ask the child about adaptations. Often they have good ideas.

4. Bring in the equipment and ask the total class what they would use it for.

5. Read and recommend resources/books that talk about learning disabilities, especially books written FOR the child him/herself.


Child Is A Loner; No One Will Play With Him/Her

1. Incorporate one or more pieces of playground equipment into the child's adaptive education sessions so the child can learn to be more comfortable on the equipment.

2. Teacher pairs child with one that is more competent in this particular area.

3. Have the parents teach and/or practice the activities the children do together for play at school (e.g., jumping rope, throwing balls, etc.)

4. Help the child find just one classmate with similar interests in anything they can play together, even if it is a card game, hangman, coloring, making jewelry, etc. during free time or recess.

Child Physically Has Difficulty With Assembly Toys, Legos, Blocks, And Does Not Join The Other Children In These Activities

1. Encourage construction with clay. (May be motorically easier for the child who has “clumsy” hands)

2. Use large cardboard boxes to build since they do not require as much dexterity.

3. Think about the classroom lay out; can the child get into the big block area without knocking down the blocks?

4. You can contract with the child using a timer, so the child knows he only has to spend a small portion of his/her time in small motor activities.

5. Encourage parents to practice these fine motor skills at home with the child.

6. Combine small motor and large motor activities (e.g. Have the child build houses on one of the motor mats and then crawl around to “drive” a car around the outside).

Child Inappropriately Touches Other Children

1. Help other children to say “don't touch me” and back off until child is more appropriate.

2. Give other options such as shaking hands or “give me five”.

3. Child may need more space. If he feels other children are invading his/her space.

4. Increase proprioceptive, tactile input with weighted objects and resistance toys (e.g., theraputty, play fidget toys, stress balls, theraband, etc.)

Child Stands Too Close To Others When Talking

1. Give the child physical and verbal cues, e.g., “stand an arms length away”.

2. Have the child practice by standing in a hoola hoop.

3. Have the child pretend he/she is inside a bubble and he/she can not get too close because it will break.

4. Explain why other children don't like when you are too close and that they are usually more willing to play with you if you follow the invasion of personal space rules.

5. Encourage parents to work on this at home. Can also use social stories to help the child understand this, or other social issues.

Child Lacks Strategies For Entering A Play Group

1. Help the child figure out strategies for entering the group. For example, have them say, “That looks like fun, can I join?” “I see you are in the middle of a game, but can I play too tomorrow?” I have an idea for a fun game, do you want to try it?”

Child Will Not Participate In Group Activities

1. Try and determine why this might be happening...

- Is the child tactile defensive? - Are group activities too noisy or confusing?

- Is the child apraxic and can't follow/do activities the other children are doing?

- Does the child have difficulty verbally understanding the directions in a group?

- Can he/she make the shift when the group directions change?

- Does the child have poor self esteem and does not want to risk failing in front of other children?

Once the reasons are understood, problem solving should come easy by accommodating for problem areas.


Child Chews On Clothing Or Other Non-Edible Objects

1. Provide child with gum to chew on.

2. See if child will substitute pulling on theraband tied to the desk or kneading an artist's eraser (or theraputty)

3. Provide child with hard, crunchy snacks or a day old bagel which is very hard to chew and offers resistance.

4. Give child sweet/sour and/or intense flavors for increased input.

5. Use rubber tubing (can dip into flavors too) for chewing on or pencil toppers

6. Provide “Chewelry” for child to chew on.

7. Increase proprioceptive input and/or use weighted vest, lap pad, neck wrap, wrist weights etc.

Toe Walking In A Child Who Can Walk With His/Her Heels Down In A Heel-Toe Gait

1. Try ankle weights.

2. Jumping on a trampoline.

3. Pushing medicine ball with his/her feet.

4. Activities on the scooter board where he/she pushes off wall with feet.

5. Allow child to bang feet against objects or wall.

6. Riding a tricycle.

Child Cannot Open Milk Carton Or Snack Packages Brought From Home

1. Use a pencil to poke a hole in the milk carton and insert a straw.

2. Open up snacks at home and place in a sandwich bag

Additional Resources To Help Children With Learning Disabilities And/Or SPD

Teacher Resources

Additional Classroom Strategies And Solutions For Behavior Problems In The Classroom

Right Brain vs. Left Brain Learning Styles

SPD Services In The Schools

Heavy Work Activities (tons of ideas, plus links to where to find supplies)

Sensory Integration Treatment Activities

The Sensory Processing Disorder Store

Site Search
(enter any products or ideas from this newsletter into my site search box and it will direct you to them.)

Thanks for joining me again this month! Your time and support are greatly appreciated. I look forward to being with you again next month for PART III of the “Insider Secrets” Series; Using SI Theory To Solve Problems For Adolescents And Adults! Until then...

Take good care.

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