Thursday, May 4, 2017

More Than Meets the Eye

As the end of the school year approaches, I am trying hard to make these last few months of therapy as fun and motivating as possible.  By this time of the year, everyone (kids and therapists alike) is struggling to enjoy the toys and activities that have been used all year long.  Last weekend, I spent some time at my local bookstores looking at some of the new books that work on visual skills.  As a child, I remember spending hours and hours playing with the Where's Waldo books.  Little did I know, that those books accomplished way more than just passing time and having fun with friends.  Looking at them now with my therapist eyes, I see just how many skills can be worked on while using books like Where's Waldo.  For some of the kids I work with, working on visual perceptual skills can be difficult and requires much encouragement.  Making the activity as fun as possible makes it way more motivating.  I have introduced some of my kids to a few new books (and shared it with parents who are looking for things to do at home with their kids) and they have loved them.  We have been able to work on improving visual scanning/tracking, visual attention, visual discrimination and many other visual skills that are critical for the development of graphomotor and reading skills.  Below, you will find a handful of the best books to work on improving visual perceptual skills.  These are ones that have been kid tested and approved by the experts....the kids I work with!

Taro Gomi's Playful Puzzles for Little Hands-I have been a longtime fan of the books by Taro Gomi so when I saw this puzzle book, I was immediately intrigued by it.  This book contains over 60 different finger games that are completed using your fingers so it's perfect for working on improving fine motor control and strength.  There are a variety of different kinds of activities including mazes, matching games, brain teasers and many, many more.  One of my favorite things about this is that since you don't use writing instruments, you can use it over and over again making it a perfect addition to any teacher or therapist's bag of tricks.

One Is Not A Pair-in this search and find book by Britta Teckentrup, kids have to find the object that doesn't have a match on the two page spread.  Each page contains several sets of pairs but there is always one that doesn't have a match.  For example, try and find the house on the street that is unlike all the others or find the teddy bear that doesn't have a twin.  This sounds like it would be too easy but it is actually quite challenging.  Great for working on improving visual scanning, visual discrimination and several other visual skills.  It is also great for working on improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, organization and modulation/regulation.  Additionally, you can work on improving language skills by having kids describe what makes the object different than the others on the page.

Where's The Pair?-another great search and find book by Britta Teckentrup.  In this one, kids have to find the two animals that are exactly the same on each page.  Each two page spread features a different group of animals and kids have to find the ones that are the same  Sounds easy, but it is actually pretty tricky and requires the kids to really focus and look at the details.  Be sure to remind the kids that the animals might be a different size or looking in a different direction.   Once they find the matches, you can play a game of I Spy to have them find different things on the pages.  Great for working on improving visual scanning, visual discrimination and several other visual skills as well as focus, attentional and organizational skills.  

Who Done It?/Who What Where?-these two books by Olivier Tallec are great books for younger children to work on improving their visual skills. In these book, kids are asked a different question on each page about the lineup of featured characters.  They need to really listen to the question and carefully look at each animal to figure out the right answer.  For example, one page asks to find the animal who ate all the jam.  By looking at each animal, they will find that one animal has jam all over their face.  In addition to working on improving visual skills, kids will work on improving language skills, focus and attention and organizational skills.  Can be done 1:1 or you can have kids work together to find the correct animal on each page.

The Lost House (A Seek and Find Book)-I was drawn to this book by B.B. Cronin because of the bright colors and beautiful illustrations.  In this seek and find book, kids have to find a variety of objects to help Grandad get ready to leave the house.  The kids I work with have gotten the biggest hit out of having to find the grandad's teeth on one of the pages!  You don't have to just look for the objects that grandad has can spend some time looking at each page and come up with a list of other items that would be fun for kids to find.  This book is great for working on a variety of visual skills such as visual tracking, visual attention and visual discrimination skills.
I have graded this activity for younger children by giving them hints about where the object is hidden which works on following directions and auditory processing skills.  For older kids, I make them come up with hints to help me find where the object is hidden.  This is great for working on improving language skills and executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and organizational skills.

Undercover...One of These Things is Almost Like the Others-another book that I was drawn to because of the beautiful illustrations.  There is a simplicity to this book but so many opportunities to work on improving visual perceptual skills, including visual attention, visual scanning and visual discrimination.  Each two page spread has a series of pictures that are similar shapes/categories but there is always one that doesn't belong for one reason or another.  For example, on one page, there are a series of insects with an airplane hidden in there.

Busy Bunny Days-another awesome book by the brilliant Britta Teckentrup. I was drawn to this book because it reminded me so much of the Richard Scarry books I loved when I was a child.  The illustrations are similar and I love the fact that there are a lot of things happening in each picture.  In this one, kids follow the Bunny family from morning until night in their home town.  On each two page spread, the Bunny family is in a different part of their town.  There are 3 questions that require the kids to search the pages to find the answer.  This is not only great for working on improving visual skills, it is also great for language development, improving conversation skills and executive functioning such as focus, attention and organizational skills.  You don't have to just use the questions that are already can get creative and come up with your own.

These books have been a great addition to my bag of tricks at work these last few weeks.  The best part is that the kids are really enjoying them and don't even realize that they are working!  Do you have any great books that you would recommend to me or my readers?  I know as a parent, I am always willing to spend money on books, especially ones that will engage my daughter.  If you have any other suggestions, please share them with me.  I am always a click away and love hearing from all of you!

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