My Next 30 Years

I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age 
The ending of an era and the turning of a page 
Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here 
Lord, have mercy on my next thirty years 
-Tim McGraw "My Next Thirty Years"

 I've had a number of milestones over the past couple of years, and thought I'd spend a little time reflecting back and looking forward.

My 30th birthday hit me pretty hard. I was still in the newly in the throes of motherhood, and learning that there is never a day off or vacation from that role. All I asked for was to be able to take a nap, and if memory serves, I did not get it. I had also started back to work at a sort-of new job. No one remembered it was my birthday. Other stuff going on as well, I can't really remember. I did reflect personally, but didn't get around to making a more public reflection. I think I'm ready for that now.

In many ways, I feel like I have spent 30 years just finally getting my life started. I spent the majority of those years in school and college, which was a fairly direct route since I didn't change majors or anything. I got married. I moved all over (something like 7 places in 7 years?) and worked all over and got to live in a big city for awhile. We bought a house. I found out what kind of work I like to do, and where I wanted to be, and made it through "my year of patience" to finally get the job. We got a supportive church family and some stable friendships. We had a beautiful baby and really became a family.

After taking my job and going through all the orientation, I started thinking about the next 30 years. My husband started talking about when I have put in 30 years with the schools that I'll be fully vested and at the top of my pay grade. It is weird to think about working for the length of time that you've been alive. It can feel more like a life sentence that way, I wouldn't recommend it. Looking in that way, it's as if I spent 30 years preparing, 30 years working, and then I would have less than 30 years of actual living, not beholden to anyone else.

Obviously, you live everyday. You live for the journey, not the destination. You find your daily rewards and enjoy everything you can. There's no point in worrying too far ahead about 30 or 60 years down the road when you might get hit by a bus tomorrow.

My dad used to say that you have to be able to keep some of the introspection, gigantic life questions, and such in boxes- you can't leave them out all the time or you'd never get out of bed. You can't ignore them forever and really understand many things. This is a moment to reflect, not a spiral of navel gazing.

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life 
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife 
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear 
Make up for lost time here in my next thirty years

My priorities have changed a lot in the last 10 years. I have gone from worrying only about myself to having a family. Family has eclipsed (but not eliminated) my personal aspirations. Leisure pursuits have changed dramatically and often, and managed to survive after a year of neglect. I don't know if men can really identify with this change in perspective, but I think it's fairly common in women. I'm pursuing a more mature balance of my occupations and even my moods.

I do foresee that the time ahead of me will be wonderful. For all that I have traded in settling down into a stable life, each day now with what I have is far better than what I could have had. For all that has passed me by, I am trying to remember the good times with fondness and let go of the things that were not worthwhile. Everything til now has brought me to this point, where things are largely well. There are toddler tempers and work stresses and general crap, but overall, things are great. Let's hope it continues to be so.


My Personal Performance Goals

I had some interest on Twitter (where I am so much more active!) about the performance goals I had to write for work. Essentially, the term is our district's way of saying SLO's (student learning objectives) that can be personalized to oneself.

Because these goals are sorta-kinda related to SLOs, I tried to find some OT related SLOs as a starting point. This wikispace has some example OT SLOs, the only ones that I could find on the internet. If you will peruse, you will notice they are EXTREMELY DETAILED, which from my understanding, SLOs have to be. Redundant even. I didn't get the message that our goals could be significantly less detailed, so I think I've overshot on my goals a bit. Such it is.

With my caseload, my kids have a wide range of ages and abilities. So I couldn't think of (in the time allotted) a good measure of student performance that would have a large group to pull from. My largest group of students are those in the regional certificated classrooms. For many reasons, including that I am evaluated as a teacher though I have not trained as a teacher, I wanted to spend more time in these classrooms learning special education techniques, dynamics, and observing the skills of the teachers and students in action. So I set a goal to observe for 1 hour each week, bringing myself to each classroom at least twice for 30 minutes in the course of the year. (I know this does not seem like a lot of time, but my schedule is packed and it is actually difficult to even get that amount of time.) I adapted a teaching reflection sheet that I found to keep a record of insights and questions.

My second goal involves our district's technology focus. There is a push to expand our technological reach and impact. I made a twitter account for our department and sent out an initial survey on usage of social media for professional development. Analyzing these responses (weighted on a Likert scale), I identified a few questions to focus on for growth (specifically, those that had a lot of room to grow). I have prepared a presentation and will be working with our team on getting started. We have a range of users, from the very tech-savvy to those who do not use social media at all. It will be interesting to see how well I differentiate instruction to the group! It is also interesting to sort of feel like a social media manager and be trying to figure out how to do that job. I hope that we will be able to meet on branding and find some great ways for us to grow as team.

So those are the (measured) targets I am working toward this year, in addition to working with my students, interfacing with teachers and parents, and several other irons in the fire! I don't feel as compelled to have true SLO goals since all my kids are working toward IEP goals that have to be constantly measured and reported quarterly anyway.  I have probably over-thought and over-measured these and they may need to be adjusted at midyear. But it is nice to have some concrete personal goals. This also helps me narrow down my focus, which long time readers will recognize as a major challenge for me!!

Do you have to write SLOs or a similar type of goal as a school-based OT? Do you have to write performance goals in a different setting, such as a hospital. Please let me know below, it would be great to dialog about this!


self care for young children

I really enjoyed putting together the Chores for Young Children entry, what OTs might call IADLs. Here is the compliment- the ADL for young children, between 6-18 months.

Obviously kids are mostly reliant on mom and dad for care, but as they get older and more able to interact with the world, they can begin self care tasks with support. These skills necessarily overlap with gross motor skills and communication skills. If you have a child who is having trouble learning a new skills, you may need to isolate down to only a component instead of asking for a motor response and a communication response simultaneously.

When I think of basic ADL/self care, I think of feeding, grooming, bathing, dressing, and toileting. (It's the FIM training in me). I will address those areas.

One of the first self care tasks that a child can do is eating. Very young children can learn to put their hand to the bottle or breast to focus on hand to mouth activity, and 5-6 month olds may hold their own bottle. (most recommendations are for a child to not take a bottle to bed with them, FYI) If you introduce foods around this time, a child can actively participate. Yogurt or thickened cereal will stick to a spoon pretty easily, and the child can dip the spoon instead of scooping, and start feeding themselves. They will likely need assistance for much of the meal, but starting this bit of independence early is very important.

Grooming is another area where young kids can participate early. With a soft bristled brush, a child can brush their own hair after a demonstration even before 12 months. If you use baby wipes or a wet washcloth to clean up after meals, provide a second one for the child to work on their own hands and face first. The third part of grooming is brushing teeth, which can be a battle for some kids. However, we started with a set of graduated brushes by Nuby that move from being all rubber to having bristles. This worked well for my son and he loves to imitate us and move the toothbrush himself. Your mileage may vary- the mouth is a very sensitive area!

My baby loves bathtime, but again, this can be a struggle for some kids. Keeping the bathroom warm and steamy by running the shower beforehand can be helpful. As your baby starts to learn words for their body parts, they can better understand lifting that part for washing or using their own washcloth to help. They may even enjoy dumping rinse water on themselves. In a related way, my son loves to help apply his lotion after bathtime. We put a little squirt on his stomach or legs and he works on rubbing it in.

When it comes to dressing, it is easier to take something off than put it on. So very young children will work on doffing hats, socks, and pullover bibs. Then you will start to see the child help you put his arms through shirts and take a more active role in dressing. By 18 months, the child can play at dressing with spare, larger clothing in free time. Be forewarned, he might start undressing in awkward places! Doffing clothes before bathtime is often a good time to practice. You can begin work on fasteners by undoing velcro closures on shoes, though getting them off his feet may still need help.

Finally is toileting! You can teach your baby to change his own diaper in 2 easy steps! Really? Of course not, just checking to see if anyone is reading this far! But it is realistic to have an older child  (~15 months) carry the clean diaper to the changing table, and tap his hips or tummy to indicate that he has a dirty diaper. I do have friends who potty trained very young, but at this point we're just working on indicating so that he can concentrate on other skills.

What do you think? Are there additional strategies or self care tasks for toddlers that you'd like to share? Please let me know!