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The Mindful Classroom

by Connie Morris


From my days as a student, to a long-time educator, I will never outgrow the first day of school excitement. Our back-to-school is a week out, and I have restless nights, to-do lists, shopping lists (which comes with a price tag) and felt the summer days slip away. I spend time setting up the class environment to be welcoming, warm and stress-free. I am not alone; I am surrounded by teachers doing the same thing. And even before one student walks through our doors, we need to remind ourselves of the words we hear prior to take-off when flying:

In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.”

Secure your mask first. We do travel with children every day. If you want to create a mindful classroom, encompassing social emotional learning, you need to take time for self-care. Studies have supported adult stress can affect children’s stress levels. It is important we model the behaviors we are hoping to develop. We are managing students, the learning process, health, behavior and emotions. That is stressful! Don’t forget to use these hints for school in your own life.

Take a few breaths. Deep breathing can quiet our minds. It will release stress, anger, and frustration. Neuroscience explains focusing on and changing your breath also changes the chemicals in your brain. It is an exciting lesson for older students teaching how we, as humans, have this ability. Deep breathing is a great tool when addressing the Social Emotional Learning component of managing emotions.Join your students in starting each day with mindful minutes. Start small and add time as you all grow in this skill. Take a slow breath in while counting to four, then slowly breath out to the count of four as you exhale. Give verbal reminders throughout the day to students when they can transfer this skill as they need it.

Take breaks. Stress happens! Teaching children to take a break, walk or go get a sip of water is a coping skill that can last a lifetime. Go on a mindful walk when the class seems to need a bit of quiet time. Look for season changes, four-leaf clovers or search for nature items. You and your students will return learning-ready!

Move! Mindful movement binds the body and mind. You can create space and time for this in your schedule or for individual needs. Yoga mats are helpful boundaries, but any space will do. Using visuals will help everyone stretch, twist and balance. Studies support mindful movement increases focus, academics, self-management and social skills.

Practice mindfulness. Allow the students to sit comfortably. Play quiet music and dim the lights. Take a thorough body scan, from head to toe, releasing any stress or tension they are aware of. This is a great time to offer lotion for their hands. Instruct them to rub their hands together quickly and then cup their hands on either side of their face and take a deep breath. Try this for three breaths, not only is it relaxing, but your room will smell great!

Be grateful. In even the most challenging situations, gratitude changes our outlook on things. By practicing gratitude, we rewire our brains to see the positive. What better skill could we hope for in our students. Our attitude is contagious! Help students recognize and verbalize each other’s strengths. Your room will become a warm and nurturing environment naturally.

At the end of your day, when your head hits the pillow, allow yourself to relax and reflect. Be thankful for your career, for your students and for the difference you make. Take a few breaths, scan your body and let go of any stress, and most of all, be positive. You are special!

Clarifying Color-Vision Deficiency Screening

by P. Kay Nottingham Chaplin, EdD


Good-Lite ColorCheck CompleteVision screeners frequently have questions regarding when to follow the recommended manufacturer instructions for color vision deficiency screening tools. This blog is designed to address that question, and also provides a solution for color vision deficiency screening in preschool- and school-aged children beginning at age 3 years.

Many state vision screening guidelines recommend that color vision deficiency screening follows manufacturer instructions when conducting the screening. Confusion may occur when the manufacturer instructions are written specifically for optometrists and ophthalmologists to use during eye examinations. Color vision deficiency testing in a doctor’s office differs from screening for color vision deficiencies in schools, Head Start programs, or similar settings.

Instructions for color vision deficiency testing may call for monocular testing - or testing one eye at a time with the other eye covered (occluded). When screening for color vision deficiencies in schools, Head Start, or similar programs, the screening should be conducted binocularly (both eyes open and uncovered).

This difference in monocular testing during an eye examination and binocular screening in school, Head Start, or similar settings is supported by James E. Bailey, OD, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, 2018, Southern California College of Optometry, Marshall B. Ketchum University, Fullerton, CA (personal communication, June 5, 2019).

If all vision screening for the child is successful except the color vision deficiency screening, the child should be referred to an eye doctor for an eye examination (Nottingham Chaplin, Baldonado, Cotter, Moore, & Bradford, 2018).

The eye care professional will confirm whether a color vision deficiency exists. If a child has a color vision deficiency, the eye care professional will also identify the type and severity (mild, moderate, or severe) … The eye care professional will also consult with the parents/caregivers regarding how the type and severity of the color vision deficit may affect the child’s learning, life, and career choices.

Ask the parents/caregivers to obtain a copy of the results from the eye care professional and to share those results with [school or Head Start staff, for example] because classroom and/or learning activities may require accommodations when color deficiencies are present.” (Nottingham Chaplin, et al., 2015, p. 211).

When state vision screening guidelines call for color vision deficiency screening for preschool- and/or school-aged screening, the Good-Lite ColorCheck Complete Vision Screener includes LEA SYMBOLS® for preschool-aged children and LEA NUMBERS® for school-aged children. The LEA SYMBOLS® section includes one demonstration plate and seven plates for red/green screening. The LEA NUMBERS® section includes one demonstration plate, 14 plates for red/green screening, and three plates for blue/yellow screening. Instructions are included in the Good-Lite ColorCheck Complete Vision Screener.

Screeners in a school, Head Start program, or similar setting using this book would conduct color vision deficiency screening binocularly (both eyes open and uncovered).

 

References:

Nottingham Chaplin, P. K., Baldonado, K., Cotter, S., Moore, B., & Bradford, G. E. (2018). An eye on vision: Five questions about vision screening and eye health-Part 2. NASN School Nurse, 33 (4), 210-213.

How the Term 'Sensory Room' Became the Kleenex of This Generation

by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.


“We are looking to put together a sensory room, what products do you suggest?” That is one of the most dangerous statements I hear these days from educators looking to better support their students. What so many educators do not understand is that the term “sensory room” means different things to different people. So much so, the “sensory room” today has taken on an all-encompassing meaning in much the same way as “Kleenex” did for facial tissues back in the 1920s when they were first introduced.

We have the research that demonstrates higher levels of anxiety within our students today. We have also seen evidence that sensory breaks, even as simple as chair push-ups or standing up, adds to a student’s ability to focus. Finally, we know that having a room where students can go when they are escalating can decrease the amount of time for the escalation and lessen the impact of that escalation on other students or adults. But how do we go about creating the right atmosphere at a reasonable cost?

When I work with groups, I begin by asking them what they hope to accomplish with this room or space. I get a lot of strange looks as these well-educated teachers just assume all sensory rooms are exactly the same. That is when we begin to speak about several purposes that these rooms or spaces may actually have. The first type of room we discuss is the actual sensory room where students have the opportunity to touch, walk on, see, hear, and smell different textures, colors and scents. These rooms or spaces are excellent for younger students. They begin to experience the world in a protected environment. These areas are good for all students too, not just those with differing abilities. What we tend to see is that the older the students get, the less they need of this type of space or room.

Which brings us to the second type of room we discuss, the movement room. The movement room is exactly as it sounds. It includes a multitude of ways for students move and experience the world in a different way. These rooms often have items on the floor for balance or movement. They usually have some type of swing for vestibular feedback. We also often see jump ropes, bungee jumpers, flags, bean bags for physical activity; although the kids look at it as play. These rooms tend to be good for all students at all ages. The difference lies within the ages of the students as to what items might be found in the setting.

A third type of room is actually a calming room. We see more of a need for this for students as they begin to get older, although individuals of any age are prone to escalation. This needs to be set up in a specific room with a focus on items that calm rather than stimulate. Bean bag chairs, fiber optic lighting, sands or putties are all items which work well in this type of a room.  Ironically, the more care put into this type of room the better for the staff too! Within any educational setting, the pressure of the day needs to be released and a room like this helps everyone.

The next question I ask focuses on the students or adults who will be using the room or space. Understanding who will be using the room will assist in deciding what items should go in the room. That is important as there is no “one-size-fits-all” in products that help everyone. You want to know if there are items which need to be avoided due to some individuals perseverating on them (usually ones that make noise or having some repetitive action) or items which are a must-have for certain groups. We must be cognizant of those using the room so that we do not bring in items which defeat the purpose of the room or cause anxiety.

Does this mean that ready made kits or packages are not good? No, not at all. Some of these packages have the large items that fit a purpose and a population. We can then contextualize smaller things for the specific population of that location. Some of these packages also make sense from a fiscal view as they cost less than the items sold separately. My caution to you is to be careful of the groups who simply ask you the size of the room or try to push a “deluxe package” on you. There are some excellent packages which cost $20,000 and more. Again, those might be the right choice, once we have decided on our purpose and have looked at who will be using the room.

Please be careful too of items from the local dollar store. There is a reason that these items are there. Their lack of durability might be a problem and you might end up spending more than you would have in replacements. Our students can break anything and will often find a way to break things that we thought were unbreakable. However, buying something because it is cheap is not a wise investment. The other caveat for some of these dollar store items is that they may contain latex or lead-based paints. We have to be cautious for the health of our students.

I do firmly believe in having these rooms or spaces in all of our schools. However, the proper preparation needs to occur before simply going out and getting things. Do your homework and don’t be afraid to call in the support of those you might trust. Every student and adult needs sensory feedback in some way throughout the day. Let’s provide that support for everyone!

I am there for your support too, so feel free to reach out to me at rheipp@schoolhealth.com.

We Are a Crocus in this World

by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.


CrocusWorking with individuals with differing abilities stands out as one of those occupations that is considered more of a vocation than a job. The role one plays does not matter in this consideration. There is no such thing as a hierarchy outside of any structures created so that “personnel evaluations” can be conducted and managed, along with rewarding those who have helped shape the lives of so many. Thus, the title one has; teacher, therapist, administrator, aide, nurse, parent, guardian, etc.; does not diminish the energy one puts into this role.

This role can be one of the most draining roles of any in the world. It is most draining on one’s emotions! Every day, we go out and work with individuals knowing that they bring a strong message to this world. Yet, to the rest of the world, these individuals are seen as either someone to simply be pitied or someone who is “a burden to society.” In both of those cases, the rest of the world has no clue about that individual. This external push back can also be a drain on those of us working with these individuals daily. We also become emotionally drained when our expectations for progress need to be tempered with the challenges that each individual faces.  We do see regression and struggle. We work extremely hard at finding solutions or techniques that might help only to sometimes find that the individual does not react well to them. We look at them almost like our own children (even if they are adults!) and seek to protect them and give them the greatest chance to succeed. Between the struggles, the outside perceptions, the stress and emotional duress, and the demands on our lives, the question must be asked; “Why do we do this?”

The answer is simple. We do this out of hope. Hope, that characteristic which remained in Pandora’s box, forms the reason we do what we do. Hope is that voice inside of us pushing us to go one step further with that individual. Hope is that feeling we get that says we will make a difference; and we do every day! Hope presents us with the ability to look in an individual’s eyes and see what they bring to this world. Hope is a life-giving force for us, even on those days where we feel spent.

We feel the true essence of hope. Many look at hope as something akin to wishes. “I hope I win the lottery” or "I hope to find true love” are statements that detract from the depth that hope should bring to any individual. “I hope spring arrives soon” is what I am hearing as I write this at the end of an 18 day trip working with individuals in multiple states. That is a concrete example of equating hope to a wish. We know that spring will arrive at some point and it is more of a wish that we stop having snow, colder temperatures, or inconsistent weather. That is not the real meaning of hope.

Hope is learning that the beautiful young lady with severe CP and verbal apraxia is able to complete a significant amount of high school classwork independently and carry a 3.0 average. Hope is seeing the smile come from a non-verbal child because you are talking to them and then having them guide your hand as they try to communicate to you. Hope is watching the young woman with Spina Bifida and other physical issues compete in the Para-Olympics. Hope is watching a young man who was non-verbal as a child and is on the autism spectrum be accepted into the honors program at a major university. In all these cases, hope is not some wish. Hope is the driving force that keeps us focused on why we do what we do. It is the belief that the outside world is incorrect in their suppositions about individuals with differing abilities and that we can assist those individuals in overcoming their obstacles and live a vibrant life. Hope places within us the understanding that our actions do make a difference and the faith to know that we might not be there to see what difference we made, but know that we made it.

In nature, hope exists in the essence of the crocus. The crocus is a beautiful little flower that blossoms each spring. It does not wish that spring will come soon. It knows what its role is and will push through to bloom no matter what the weather might be. Those of us in the Midwest have seen (too many times, unfortunately) snows in March and April. Yet, the crocus comes out knowing that spring is coming. It is filled with the hope that says “Take Action” and it has no doubt about what it is doing. Those of us who work with those with differing abilities have that same hope. It is a hope which says “Take Action” to us and pushes us to understand that the snows and bad weather of life cannot hold us back. The other neat thing about the crocus is that it has the ability to naturalize even in grass. That means it can grow and increase its numbers even in areas where growth might not be expected. We are that crocus; naturalizing by working with each other and recruiting others to understand that “Ableism” is another of the “isms” which must be removed from our existence. We all have something amazing and beautiful to bring to this world. Thank you for what you are doing and know that you are not alone in this venture!

CEC 2019 – Braving the Polar Vortex for Our Friends

CEC Recap ImageCEC 2019 saw some unusual weather in the Indianapolis area. The arrival of the polar vortex was not what most attendees were expecting when they were planning their trip this year! I happened to be speaking to a group recruiting teachers to Alaska and they were using the tagline “Alaska is the Hawaii of the North!” as on the first full day of CEC, Anchorage, Alaska was 25 degrees warmer than we were in Indianapolis and that doesn’t even count the wind chill!

Yet, inside the building, there were excellent ideas and presentations going on. As I prepared for the conference by reviewing the sessions, I was not surprised by the number of research-focused sessions. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the next three most prolific topics there were: Autism Spectrum Disorder/Intellectual Disability; Collaboration and Inclusive Practices; and Personnel Preparation. We are at a point in time where the ideas of inclusivity and awareness of how to support students with differing abilities are at the forefront of Special Education.

Within the context of inclusivity, there were a myriad of sessions describing how the simplest adjustments can bring about high levels of success for all students. The critical piece though in any movement toward true inclusivity is to ensure that the teachers and paraprofessionals are properly supported and trained in approaches which work for all students. Even when I was heading up a Special Needs Program in the 1990s, I remember the concern of teachers being “how can I help these students when I know nothing about their issues?” Back in the 1990s, we were mainly dealing with issues of ADD and physical issues like CP. Today, we see that there are more differing abilities which are not restricting our students from succeeding in classrooms. It is the lack of funding for holistic preparation for our teachers which is slowing us down. The irony is that the techniques which best support our students with differing abilities also are supportive of our neuro-typical students too.

How do we continue to move toward more inclusivity and a transparency in technology for students in the classroom. Teacher preparation is the first step. I am seeing many universities already moving toward courses which focus on inclusive pedagogies within their general education classes. This is not to say that there should not be Special Education classes. However, the awareness of how to work with a student on the autism spectrum is also good for working with the neuro-typical population. Simple things like pacing, verbiage, sensory awareness, and approaches to assignments are supportive of all students. We also need to recognize that there are students with differing abilities who may not be diagnosed. Understanding a variety of teaching techniques is important for those students too.

Another important take-away from the conference was the message that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for working with students with differing abilities. The more we share approaches which work, the more we are able to adapt to the specific needs of our students. Using approaches which incorporate multi-modal learning along with including opportunities for sensory feedback better meet the needs of our students, but require proper training and support to be used effectively.

Due to the timing of this year’s conference, vendors found themselves with a decision as to whether to attend CEC or ATIA. Only about 5 vendors sent groups to both conferences. On account of that, I was not able to see the “Sidekick” from Ablenet in action. Thanks to my colleagues, Terri Griffin and Gabe Ryan, I was able to get some firsthand feedback. It seems like an amazing device which permits any user to use devices like a trackball or a standard mouse with an iPad. Thanks to the good folks at Ablenet, I will have one when it officially comes out later in the year and will be able to feature it in some of my AT Seminars. So look for a review of that in the coming months. While at CEC, I was impressed with the Talking Pen. I am doing a little more research with this device, but see many potential applications for our classrooms, including adding to making reading a more inclusive process.

If you were not able to attend either CEC or ATIA and would like to have me stop out and talk more to you and your staff, please let me know. I am back out on the road bringing AT Seminars and other sessions to districts throughout the country. By sharing what is working for us in the classroom, we are able to come closer to creating highly inclusive environments for our students.

Student Athlete Risk for SCA

PLUS_EV_sch_soccer_2_HRIs your team prepared?

Coaches spend countless hours preparing student athletes for competition, but how about training them to save a life? Studies show between 6,000 - 8,000 teens experience sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) annually;of those affected, only 1 in 10 will survive.2

Student athletes are at heightened risk for SCA due to the additional strain placed on the heart during athletic conditioning and competition. Contributing factors include the influx of adrenaline, dehydration, fever, and changes in electrolytes.3

An SCA victim’s best chance of survival depends on having an automated external defibrillator (AED) close at hand. Nine out of ten victims who receive a shock from an AED within the first minute’s survive.Ensuring that your students and coaches are trained to respond to an SCA emergency could help save a life.

SCA can strike without warning, but sometimes symptoms are presented.

Train your student athletes to know the warning signs:5

  • Fainting

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Irregular heartbeat – racing or fluttering

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Extreme fatigue


Watch this video to learn the story of a high school volleyball player whose life was saved when volunteers took action.

Having AEDs readily accessible throughout your school’s campus will help ensure that you are prepared to respond to an SCA emergency, whether it happens on the field, in the gym, or in the cafeteria.

 To learn more about how the ZOLL AED Plus can help prepare your school for an SCA emergency click here.

Sources:

1“Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Teenage Athletes: What’s the Risk?”. Promise powered by Nemours Children’s Health System. https://blog.nemours.org/2017/02/sudden-cardiac-arrest-teenage-athletes-risk/

2“AHA Release 2015 Heart and Stroke Statistics”. Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. http://www.sca-aware.org/sca-news/aha-releases-2015-heart-and-stroke-statistics

“Sports and Sudden Cardiac Arrest(SCA)”. Cardiosmart – American College of Cardiologyhttps://www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/Sports-and-Sudden-Cardiac-Arrest

4Source: 2017, AHA Mediagenic Survey Results; 2017, AHA with Edelman Intelligence; 2017, AHA with BLR Media; Postgrad Medical Journal, October 2007.

5”Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in Student-Athletes”. California Interscholastic Federation. http://www.cifstate.org/sports-medicine/sca/index

Addressing the Multi-Ton Gorilla in our Midst Throughout 2019

by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.


StressI wish you and your families a happy and healthy 2019! For many, transitioning into a New Year is a time of hope and resolutions. Many see this transition as a time for positive change and a better tomorrow. While they should keep their focus on that positive change, we must not forget that there are those who are struggling now more than ever. During this time of transitioning, those who suffer from high levels of anxiety may not see any level of hope at all.

Throughout 2018, I was asked by many groups to speak on and assist them with understanding how the sensory item side of assistive technology could help those with differing abilities. We began to see a better recognition by the outside world of the value of sensory input and how it could calm and balance some individuals. The wonderful thing for me to experience was the amount of teachers, therapists, and people in general who found some sensory item they liked and began discussing how it could help them. There was a subtle transition to understanding what I and others meant when we said that everyone has some degree of sensory processing issues and that the use of appropriate sensory items could be good for all.

As I worked with various groups like school districts, hospitals, and support organizations, I began to get a better sense of an issue which is rampant throughout our greater community; anxiety. Anxiety has been around since the dawn of time; but in recent years, its effects have begun to reach more people at even younger ages. It is a belief among some that this spike in anxiety is simply due to millennials coming of age. However, as bizarre as it is to blame millennials for everything, the rise in anxiety is not their fault. We can trace early writings in Western Civilization regarding anxiety to Greek and Roman authors who addressed “distress” and the dealing with emotional outbursts. Yet, some in our culture look at anxiety as a weakness, rather than as a common issue.

2018 saw a rise in public admissions of issues surrounding anxiety. Even professional athletes, like Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, began to admit to dealing with anxiety and its comorbid colleague, depression. A recognition of the role of anxiety in daily life was presented with some understanding, while others hearing these stories continued to live in denial and make excuses. There are no excuses with anxiety. We all will feel it at some time and all have to deal with varying levels of it in our lives.

There are some positive movements in addressing anxiety in daily life. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an affliction for many individuals within our country. It is most associated with those who have served in our military. Its recognition can be the defining factor in helping those who suffer. There are programs being developed, like the one for VA Hospitals by Dawn Robinson, which seek to identify those with PTSD and assist in the development of a plan to help those individuals cope and live a better life, as anxiety-free as possible. As Ms. Robinson has stated though, the biggest reason for the lack of a PTSD diagnosis in our veterans is their belief that it demonstrates a sign of weakness and is therefore unbecoming anyone in the service. That idea is so far from being factual, yet is perceived as a truth. The valor of these men and women should be the focal point from the outside world, not the potential for a “weakness.”

I have spoken with many veterans over the years and have heard the horrors that they went through. I remember speaking with a veteran of Vietnam who shared with me human atrocities beyond imagination, yet spoke about how upon returning to the US had to deal with being shunned by many. For them, PTSD occurred on multiple fronts. As Ms. Robinson and the VA continue to develop this program, other groups should take note of how to incorporate it into their areas. PTSD is not simply a disorder afflicting our people in the service. It also affects first responders. Poilce, Firefighters, and Emergency Medical Technicians, along with doctors and nurses, have to deal with tragedy on a daily basis. For some, they deal with the stress and anxiety through alcohol and other pain killers. Anyone who has gone through a traumatic experience in their lives can also suffer from PTSD. Those who have had to deal with unexpected death or tragedy can feel increased anxiety. We cannot forget women who have endured rape situations and individuals who have endured significant levels of abuse too in this category. Trauma is something that comes in various shapes to individuals and we should never judge what trauma should be for anyone but ourselves.

Thus far, we have looked at adults with anxiety. We cannot forget that our children may have high levels of anxiety too. As an administrator, I saw anxiety in my students at the high school level. Anxiety for these students has continued to grow over the years. The stress of trying to fit in to groups has always been a part of the development of students. Yet, it does not mean that some students do not feel more pressure than others. In working with our students with differing abilities, acceptance is a critical issue. Some of these students have achieved a level of acceptance with peers and have healthy self-images. Other students struggle and seek to fit in through actions which may not be in their best interest. While part of this is a natural developmental process, if anxiety levels rise to a degree where self-injurious behaviors become part of the norm, then the student needs assistance. We cannot be content to say that “it is a phase” or “they will work through it.” These are the statements which may precede student suicides or other serious issues.

We cannot minimize what today’s students are struggling with in their lives. I grow annoyed with those who continually cite that they had it so much more difficult as children. “I had to walk to school 10 miles each way in six feet of snow uphill both ways daily! We didn’t have fancy calculators or cell phones either, so we had to count on our fingers and toes and do research in books.” I get that idea. I also know that you are incorrect to say that you had it “worse.” It was simply different. In many ways, our students are being forced to grow up sooner, compete on a global scale earlier, and market themselves positively by the time they are in middle school.  That stress can create unbelievable levels of anxiety; levels which may be do deep, they are not easily seen at the surface. Thus, we need to be conscious of actions and words of the students to understand where they are at better. Otherwise, we may not learn of these depths of anxiety until there is a school tragedy or a suicide.

Suicide is a large issue today. We have experienced the suicides of popular figures in culture. I have also had a number of friends admit to suicidal ideas based on where they were in life. Research suggests that there are more adults dealing with suicidal thoughts now than in previous generations. Why is this? There appear to be many suggested explanations for this.  Greater feelings of inadequacy and higher levels of stress creating greater anxiety are definitely major reasons for this. Let us not act as ostriches though and bury our heads claiming that the reasons are more superficial. High levels of anxiety today are influenced by what is happening to each of us.These may involve influences such as socio-economic issues, political issues, gender or racial issues, or religious issues. However, anxiety does not discriminate as it affects all people in varying degrees. So those of you trying to blame either political party or the era in which one was born are incorrect.

So what can we do to help in 2019? First, we need to assess ourselves. Ask yourself how are you doing today? I recently read an article by Candida Moss who suggested that journaling was one of the most recommended resolutions being suggested to individuals for 2019. A journal does allow for the processing of ideas and lets the writer go down into the depths of their mind for a better understanding of how they are doing. Along with that assessment, commit to a healthier lifestyle. You have always heard “eat well and exercise.” For some, baby steps are all that is necessary. Start walking each day and drink more water. Limit your fast food trips and make a few more meals at home. You do not need to suddenly become a fitness guru, but take the time to improve your health.

Next, learn how to listen. Many of us are able to hear things, but that does not mean we are really listening. Actual listening requires one to not make any judgments or to find a “solution” to another’s problem while hearing the words. Let the other person get their issue out. Be open to meeting someone for coffee or lunch to listen to them. Part of active listening also requires one to be aware when the best advice is to suggest that the speaker go get additional advice from a minister at their church or a counselor. We are not all walking around with degrees in psychology or psychiatry, so it would be better to suggest bringing up deep issues with a professional.

Third, learn how to respond. “You think you got problems” and “That ain’t nothing” are not only grammatically shaky, but also are non-supportive to the speaker. Listen, think, and then respond.  Always let them finish before even starting to put together a response. Life coaches will attest to the fact that may of their clients are first seeking an empathetic or sympathetic ear.  Watch cable shows and listen to radio shows where individuals with opposing points are involved. Most of the time is spent speaking over each other and not listening. When truly listening to another, realize that you have no point to prove.

Fourth, recognize that some individuals may need sensory items to keep them calm. I am not speaking of fidget spinners as those of you who have heard me speak, know my feelings about them! Other sensory fidgets, weighted items, and tight or wrapped clothing should not be pointed out and referred to in any negative manner. Fidgets are not toys and specialized clothing is helpful for some. Be aware that even actions like pencil tapping or leg crossing and uncrossing may be ways of releasing kinetic energy to help a person stay calm. Just be aware of the needs of others as well as your own needs.

Finally, be nice! We can always say be nice to others and that is important. But, be nice to yourself first! No one is perfect! Recognize that you may have some anxiety that is coming out in covert ways. Invite yourself to really look at the good things you bring to the table. Know that you are an amazing person who has so much to offer to this world! If you have concerns, share them with someone and don’t hold them in. If someone wants to share concerns with you, do the best you can for them, but do not take on their concerns too!

We all matter in this world! May 2019 be a wonderful year for you as you are a wonderful person!

Stop the Bleed and AEDs at the University of Connecticut

We received the following testimonial from Justin Pedneault, the University of Connecticut Rescue President & Training Coordinator. Justin contacted School Health for assistance in getting the university to their goal of being a Heart Safe Campus. 

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, I was working with the University of Connecticut School of Nursing on the Storrs campus to add a second AED to the nursing building. In addition to this, I wanted to add signs throughout the building directing people to the nearest AED, a first response kit and bleeding control kits to both AEDs, and then seek HeartSafe Workplace designation from the Connecticut Department of Public Health.  As part of this process, School of Nursing Dean Deborah Chyun asked me to give a 3-5-minute presentation at a campus-wide forum, with all academic department heads represented, in April 2018.  I gave a quick talk about the need for these improvements and how I was working with the School of Nursing to get them done. Following my presentation, the provost’s office, which put the event together, was flooded with emails asking how to do the same thing in all of the other academic departments and schools on the Storrs campus.

In response, the provost’s office created a committee that included the UConn Fire Department, Michael Zacchera from Hartford Hospital, Dr. Richard Kamin from UConn Health, the Facilities and Maintenance unit, the Office of Planning and Design, the Office of Emergency Management and myself. Our goal was to spend $150,000 towards accomplishing this task in academic buildings by the end of the fiscal year, giving us about 30 days to select equipment and place the first order.  We quickly met and ordered 100 Stryker (Physio Control) CR-Plus AEDs, alarmed cabinets, and 200 stop-the-bleed kits (2 kits with each AED cabinet) from School Health. This included signage and first response kits (mask, gloves, trauma shears, razor, etc.) with each AED. These were destined for all academic buildings on every UConn campus.

We were extremely fortunate that School Health worked with the manufacturer to donate all the cabinets, enabling us to purchase an additional 35 AEDs/cabinets/bleeding control supplies. We have since been given permission to plan for an additional 200 AEDs (with cabinets, first response kits and bleeding control kits) to cover every single building including residential and staff buildings on every single UConn campus (Storrs, Stamford, Hartford, Avery Point, Depot Campus). Our goal is to deliver an AED and bleeding control supplies to any victim in a round- trip walk of less than 3 minutes. This is a requirement to get the Connecticut Department of Public Health HeartSafe Campus designation, which we as a university are working to attain.  We have been working very closely with the DPH and they have been touring buildings with us while selecting the locations for these emergency supplies. Every inch of every building is being evaluated to determine the most beneficial and appropriate locations.

School Health has been a helpful and valuable partner in our effort to meet the needs of a large, complex enterprise like the University of Connecticut that has dozens of academic buildings spread across five campuses. Our goal is to make our campuses safe and responsive places for our students, faculty, staff, and visitors, and School Health has been key in helping us reach that goal.

Outside of my efforts with this committee, I also serve as the President and Training Coordinator for UConn Rescue, a student organization at the University of Connecticut which allows students to gain experience in the medical field with EMS training. This organization meets monthly with EMS continuing education classes and training scenarios for members. A key component of UConn Rescue is our training program. UConn Rescue regularly hosts American Heart Association Basic Life Support for Healthcare Provider CPR/AED classes, AHA Heartsaver CPR/AED classes, AHA Heartsaver First Aid classes, and Stop the Bleed classes each semester. We began offering our first classes in April 2016 after I became an American Heart Association Basic Life Support CPR Instructor. I continue to be responsible for every aspect of coordinating, teaching, ordering, managing instructors for our ever-growing and expanding training classes each semester. UConn Rescue has offered over 1,500 seats for various trainings and trained almost 1,000 students, staff and faculty. These student-run programs meet the training requirement for the Connecticut DPH HeartSafe Campus designation.

While working on the HeartSafe Workplace efforts with the School of Nursing during the spring 2018 semester, I worked on integrating the Stop the Bleed class into the nursing simulation curriculum. The plan was to replace an existing assignment in the nursing students’ junior class schedule during a simulation in their fundamentals nursing class. As such, all undergraduate nursing students will be trained in the Stop the Bleed class before graduation in their junior year fall semester.

I have greatly enjoyed my efforts at the University of Connecticut and I look forward to seeing all my projects through and always seeking to improve existing processes.

Creating a Sensory Room

by Ochanya McRoberts


Do-it-Yourself Sensory Fun!

As special educators, we’ve all been faced with the task of creating an effective and efficient sensory room or space for our students. We know that sensory rooms can have extensive effects on our kiddos and can make a big difference in a child’s development, and because of this, we want to make these spaces awesome. But realistically, we are often stumped by the thought that it might become too expensive or could possibly take up too much classroom space.

I am happy to share with you that this is not the case! Creating an effective sensory space does not have to be expensive, nor does it require a large section of your classroom space. To help out with this, I’ve compiled a few tips to help you get started. Happy creating!

What First?

First, let’s start with considering your students and their needs, as every child is unique, and the sensory spaces/activities you create for them should be unique, too. Start with thinking about the room or space in the classroom that is accessible and how you might be able to incorporate sensory items. This is also the point at which you will want to start brainstorming themes and the kind of input (or output) the area will provide.

Make a list of toys or sensory activities your students like, while making sure to incorporate their interests and passions as much as possible. Also, try to remember that all spaces are usable; a corner, a closet, or a simple wall could be the perfect starting point for your work if you do not have an entire room to spare.

Once you have developed your ideas for the space and an enjoyable theme, it’s time to start thinking about how to pull it all together.

The Right Stuff 

With your desired space in mind, it’s time to do an inventory of your kiddos’ needs. Not all students need the same kinds of sensory stimuli, and it is essential that you have an understanding of what your students’ bodies are seeking. Usually, our kiddos are seeking three basic kinds of stimuli: tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive.

Students who need tactile input may display difficulty with perceiving or interpreting their environment, and may benefit from sensory activities that provide stimuli such as touch, pressure, and temperature.

Students in need of vestibular sensory supports may appear to be clumsy, or they may seek out intense sensory input such as spinning, bouncing, and jumping on a trampoline.

Similar to vestibular needs, students who have proprioceptive sensory needs may appear as clumsy, may fall a lot, or may display a general lack of awareness of their bodies in space.

While you are taking inventory, take note of your students’ behaviors, likes and dislikes, as this information will help you decide the best kind of activities for your sensory area. Also, please be sure to talk with your students’ Occupational Therapist to help pick the right activities.

High-Quality on a Budget

Now that you’ve knocked out the logistics of your project, it’s time to tackle the hard part: how does this fit your budget?! Before you turn your bank upside down, take a few moments to look over your needs list and identify some alternative choices. For example, instead of buying a new swing or trampoline for the corner, a cheaper solution could be a rocking chair or perhaps a yoga ball.

Another example is the all-time favorite ball pit- they’re fun and engaging but can be pricey. Instead, try ordering a kiddie pool and multicolored balls online. And Christmas lights and bulk fabric make fantastic forts or hide-away spots.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You are probably thinking that all of your ideas can’t be ordered online, or, maybe your ideas are so creative that they don’t even exist yet (this happens more often than you think). If this is the case, bringing this area to life might require the use of tools and a little elbow grease, and it’s easy to get discouraged if some of these designs need to be built from scratch. When creating sensory boards, tables or walls, try to remember that materials such as water beads, waterproofing, PVC pipes, vacuum-sealed bags, empty plastic bottles, sand, vegetable oil, and glue are your best friends. You might even strike gold in your own kitchen, basement, or garage. You will be surprised by how many details in your sensory area can be made from re-purposed items/materials!

Now that you’re prepared (and encouraged), go make some awesome, sensory fun!

New AED Legislation in California

Sudden cardiac arrest affects nearly 10,000 youth nationally per year according to the American Heart Association, while the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research reports that more student athletes die annually from sudden cardiac arrest than from sport-related trauma. As a result, more and more states are enacting AED legislation.

California Assembly Bill 2009 Requires AEDs at Interscholastic Athletic Programs by July 1, 2019

Joining several other states that have enacted some form of AED legislation pertaining to schools, California has established new requirements for public and charter schools that offer interscholastic athletic programs.

  • Mandates at least one automated external defibrillator (AED) be present on campus and accessible to authorized personnel during interscholastic athletic events or activities by July 1, 2019.

  • Requires a written emergency action plan that directs the use of the AED, and to have policies that protect school district employees from liability for providing emergency care.

  • Ensures AEDs are available to athletic trainers and coaches and other authorized individuals at athletic programs, on-campus activities, and events.

  • Ensures AEDs are registered and inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications, including, at a minimum, biannual testing and after each use.


Seconds Count with Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest causes more than 350,000 deaths every year, and while it is largely an issue for older adults, the syndrome is also among the leading causes of death among young athletes.

Rapid treatment of SCA with an AED can be lifesaving. An AED analyzes the heart rhythm and then sends an electric shock to the heart to try to restore its normal rhythm.

Every minute that defibrillation is delayed, the likelihood of survival from SCA drops about 10 percent. If bystanders act quickly and use an AED (in conjunction with CPR), the survival rate is 89 percent among student-athletes suffering SCA on a school campus.

According to the bill’s author, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein -San Diego, 42 young athletes in California died while engaged in physical activity between 2009 and 2011, and among those cases where a cause of death was released, 68 percent were attributed to sudden cardiac arrest.

“Although SCA can occur at any time, vigorous exercise appears to act as a trigger, making SCA more common during athletic practices and games,” Maienschein said in a statement. “SCA is the leading cause of death in athletes during exercise and usually results from intrinsic cardiac conditions that are triggered by vigorous exercise.”

“If automated external defibrillators are more readily available for authorized personnel to use, the lives of more student athletes and spectators will be saved,” he said.

He adds that while almost every coach in California has been trained to use the AED, only about 75 percent of high schools have the machines. The chances of survival are close to 90 percent if a deliberator is used within the first minute of collapse. After that, chances of surviving rapidly decline.

American Heart Association Recommended Protocol

The American Heart Association already has a recommended protocol for schools to create a cardiac emergency response plan:

  • Identification of one or more cardiac emergency response teams trained to respond quickly in case of medical emergencies;

  • Strategic placement and routine maintenance of AEDs, ideally to ensure that an AED is readily accessible so that a rescuer can retrieve it and deliver a shock within three minutes of collapse;

  • Dissemination of the plan throughout the school campus;

  • Ongoing staff training in CPR and AED use;

  • Regular drills throughout the school year to ensure school staff are prepared to respond to medical emergencies;

  • Working with local emergency responders to ensure the plan is integrated into community emergency response protocols; and

  • Annual review and evaluation of the plan.


Full text of the Bill can be found here.

School Health can help you decide what supplies you need to prepare your school for emergency situations. Visit our California AED Legislation Page for more information.