Superman

Superman stampI remember a student whose parents had bought him a superman costume when he was three years old. This child had a particularly difficult time with anything new, and getting into a different outfit once at school, was near to impossible. Unfortunately our little superhero did not wear his costume that year, and had a rough time watching the other children in funny outfits, as well as all taking in all the other strange changes to his school day routine.

The next year, his parents with little hope for a different outcome sent the same superman costume for the Halloween parade and activities. This little super hero, with many of the same challenges from last year, had a persistent teacher and speech therapist determined to get a different outcome from last year’s meltdown. Singing one of superman’s favorite songs, the teachers modified the words of the song to reflect the actions of getting into the costume. Smiling and singing along, Superman morphed into a muscle enhanced superhero, complete with a red cape. Although his costume was a little short in the arms and legs, this little superhero couldn’t have been a better treat for his two teacher’s Halloween celebration!

Give Thanks

Give ThanksGrowing up my sister started a Thanksgiving tradition (one not involving food)! She would cut out paper in the shape of leaves or hands. Every guest would write down what she or he was most thankful for.

 

We would then put them in the middle of the table. Everyone would take turns reading the items of someone else and guess from whom it was. This would continue until all the leaves or hands were read aloud.

 

This is a great way to remind us why we gather to celebrate and momentarily shift the focus away from the food!

Boo! Ring-around-the-Ghost

Ring-around-the-GhostEach month our preschool classrooms target a group social game. We teach games step-by-step, but our goal is to keep it F-U-N. We began this several years ago, and received feedback from parents that it was helping our kids be more successful at birthday and family parties- a great bonus.

This month’s game is “Ring-around-the-Ghost,”a version of Ring-around-the-Rosie.(Special thanks, SurfMama.) We play this after lunch, a good time for giggling. Goals for most social games include sustained participation, orienting to the group activity, anticipating one’s turn, turn taking, learning to be a good loser, cheering on friends, and following the rules.We build in tangible and social reinforcement at high rates for those demonstrating targeted skills. It is amazing how quickly these are learned.

We begin with the ghost standing in the middle and looking through a simple ghost mask with cutout eyes. We make our own masks using die-cut ghosts on popsicle sticks. The ghost looks at their friends and teachers circling around, holding hands, and singing the familiar tune: Ring- around- the- Ghost. Who will he scare the most? Spooky- spooky. The ghost says, Boo!

For preschoolers, saying Boo! is pure fun.Unlike Rosie, no one falls down. The child or teacher that the ghost is looking at when the singing stops simply becomes the next ghost in the middle.

This game also provides an opportunity to facilitate a child’s understanding of looking at the speaker and the importance of gaze direction.At early stages, we actually take time to draw an imaginary line and connect the ghost’s body orientation and gaze direction to the next ghost. We ask, Who is the ghost looking at? and give high fives as everyone guesses.As a SLP, this is an important nonverbal and social communicative behavior to understand. When a teacher’s orientation is not to the child, it signals, are not my turn now.This is a critical building block to understanding that do not interrupt my teacher now. I need to wait. She is talking to someone else.

Ring-around-the-Ghost. Enjoy.And, “Boo!”

Healthy Trick-or-Treat Alternatives

Healthy trick-or-treat alternativesHalloween can be a challenging time to find healthy alternatives among the candy sales that seem to start earlier every year. Here are five healthier alternatives to hand out this year:

*Mini bag of pretzels*

*Pre-packed whole, raw almonds*

*Box of raisins*

*Mini bag of baby carrots*

*Air popped popcorn topped with a spice mix*

Trick or Treat!

Sugar… Not as sweet as it seems!

No sugar, or at least less sugarSugar is everywhere nowadays.It comes in many names and forms:
beet sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, corn sweetener,
corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrin, dextrose, evaporated cane juice,
fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey,
invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar,
sucrose, sugar, syrup, turbinado sugar, white sugar, sucrose, molasses, and the list goes on…

 

Once in the body, all sugars act virtually the same. No matter what sugar
you choose to eat, it is best to limit it!

 

With Halloween on the horizon, here are some non-candy sweet treats to try:

 

*Plain yogurt swirled with ground cinnamon, fresh berries, and a dollop of
honey.
*Core an apple and stuff the hallow center with natural peanut butter, some
raisins, and a few dark chocolate chips.
*Sweet veggies (jicama, bell peppers, carrots) served with hummus or
guacamole.
*Homemade granola made from rolled oats, honey, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds
baked in the oven.
*Core a pear or apple and sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on the hollowed
inside. Place fruit in baking dish and bake in oven at 325 for 45-60
minutes.
*Baked sweet potato fries. Slice sweet potatoes and/or yams, sprinkle with
olive oil and any favorites spices (rosemary is a favorite). Baked at 425
until golden brown (about 30 minutes). Enjoy on their own or with organic
ketchup.

Trick-or-Treat Learning Opportunities

Trick or TreatTrick-or-treat. Silly fun. Either inside your classroom, or at home practice: A) knocking on door or ringing the bell, B) waiting for someone to open the door, C) saying trick-or-treat, D) opening your treat bag, and E) saying thank-you. Wow, who would have guessed that there are so many imbedded, natural opportunities for social communication in this highly practiced verbal routine?

 

No need to give candies while practicing, but do use treats. In our classrooms we use tiny toys and manipulatives that stay in the classroom. Kids can make choices at the different stops when offered, and even learn no, thank you. We vary lessons to let them play with the toys when trick-or-treating is over, and then practice sorting them into correct groups (e.g. toy cars in this group, blocks here, and animals there.) Other times, when food is given as treats, kids separate items into I eat this; I do not eat this. The rule is consistently, I do not eat and open anything until my mommy/ daddy/ teacher checks all my treats. Trick-or-treat learning opportunities. Again, who would have guessed?

Using Costumes to Learn to Dress

Halloween CostumeCostumes! Want to keep the fun in Halloween for your anxious child? Begin building skills now. This next week, one dramatic play center in many preschool classrooms will serve as a place to practice dressing up.” We teach the self-help skill of “getting ready” and encourage communicating, “I need help.

For some preschoolers, the target is tolerating a single piece of costume. For others, several pieces.Let the child give you an idea where to begin and then slowly increase expectations as kids tolerate more. Whatever they choose, let them play an important role as they learn that their opinion or choice counts. For some, the costume might be character pajamas and fun shoes. One Halloween, my own daughter chose Rudolph (brown clothes and a red nose), and a dear friend tells a funny story how her son chose to be a FedEx plane. Now I look back and laugh— it doesn’t matter.

Our OTs have provided lots of ideas. One of the best is to let children wear the costume and get used to it piece-by-piece’s before the big day. We often begin with keeping a costume part on for only SECONDS before it comes off. The child is then rewarded for being calm AND wearing the costume or mask. Be prepared to modify, since the costume may itch, not fit properly, or prevent natural movement.

Encourage them to get dressed all by myself. If they sign or use words, look for that “rumbling” that signals frustration. Then model, I need help. This is hard.Providing words, in the context when they are truly needed, is very powerful. Don’t let a sudden escalation before the fun begins destroy a special, happy memory. Read the child’s signals early, and build on this teachable moment.

Emotions: Scared? Afraid? No… Brave!

Scared faceScared. Afraid. Brave. We target these emotions during October because of Halloween. We discuss what scared looks like in how we move and what is on our faces. We talk about costumes and not real/ pretend. The staff often introduces this concept using a mask or scarf over someone’s face in a group circle activity… “Where is xx?” When removed, “Look, it’s XX!”

We discuss being safe in simple social stories (thanks, DC!).It’s night time when I trick-or-treat. It’s dark. At night time, I see the moon and stars. A house with lights on signals, someone is home. My mommy or daddy carries a flashlight so we can see. We hold hands and stay in a group.

We look for these types of environmental cues in the books we read this month. Some favorite picture books with lots of recurring lines for choral or group responding include: The Little Old Lady who was not Afraid of Anything/ Linda Williams, Go Away Big Green Monster/ Ed Emberley, and We are off to Find the Witcha’s House/ Mr. Krieb. It’s trick-or-treat time, but build this awareness throughout the year when you drive or walk in your neighborhood.Be brave!