A much needed break from placement.

Like you probably already know, I am in my final year of studies and on the placement for the whole term. I am working at a school in London from 8am to 5pm everyday, with an hour-long commute each way to/from my family’s home. (Yes, I’m living with my parents, but only because we cannot afford accommodation for me alone.) I wake up at quarter to six in the morning and get picked up from the station at quarter past six in the evening. I work long, hard hours. Don’t get me wrong – I love my placement and it feels like a dream come true.

But, boy, do I need this break.

Now usually, in your third year at Oxford Brookes, you only get one week of study leave in your placement. I have no choice but to have two. Working at a school means regular holidays, and the school celebrated Harvest Festival and broke up for two weeks on Friday. So this week and next week are dedicated to waking up after six and actually having time to read. I was starting to panic on placement because I just didn’t have the time or energy to work on my various written assignments and do much-needed background reading. Sure, I did some reading on the train sometimes, but only what my eyelids and brain would allow for whilst exhausted.

So I’m spending this week and next reading and writing. I want to finish Sensory Integration and the Child by A. Jean Ayres (UK/US). (My library only had the original edition – am I missing out on anything important?) I love this book. I know it’s a bit outdated now, but I’ve only read the first four chapters so far, and it just makes so much sense. Reading about the evolution of the senses and the development of the sensory system in children, I feel like I understand people so much better, especially the children I work with. I understand myself so much better too. If everyone is somewhere on a sensory integration spectrum, I think I’m personally a bit too aware of smells and sounds, and I have awful balance and coordination! (So bad, in fact, that I thoroughly embarrassed myself whilst trying to explain the different activities within the Movement Assessment Battery for Children – 2nd Edition (Movement ABC-2).

Now, so you can all know what exactly I need to do by next weekend…

  1. Read Sensory Integration and the Child
  2. Write rough draft of Case Study (2000 words, mostly on the evidence base behind a certain assessment/intervention used)
  3. Write rough draft of Context of Practice Report (2000 words, still trying to figure out exactly how to write this…)
  4. Research the ALERT program
  5. Research SI strategies
  6. Develop almighty evidence base for everything related to paediatrics and SI (yes, exaggerating a tad, but still, this is what it feels like)
Help is welcome!!!!!!!

Week 1/14 of my final placement.

First, let me just say that typing this out on the iPad is really odd. I’m still not a big fan of onscreen keyboards, especially ones that require short nails. I’m lazy, ok? Also, my pointer fingers are not like my others. All my other fingers can bend and type, but my pointers are sort of flat, so I need to change the angle of my hand to type with them. If that makes any sense to you.

Second, I love my placement. Every day, I get up before 6am to catch a 7am train to Vauxhall. I feel groggy and hungry, but so far I haven’t felt dread. It’s great to be at the school. The kids are adorable, if a little overexcited and easily distracted. The staff have been friendly, including the teaching assistant, a Kiwi who’s the same age as me. It helps to not be the only inbetweener (i.e. not child, but not proper grownup). It’s a long day, and I leave exhausted but so very, very happy.

Is it too terrible that I’m hoping they offer me a job after I graduate? Hell, I’ll stay on past December 9th until there term ends if they let me.

So what have I done in the past week?

Monday was just meet&greet.

On Tuesday, I helped out a class with their famous namesake research, this class being named after famous dyslexic, Richard Branson. I also watched two assessments being done with a new student: the Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration (only the VMI subtest) and the Motor-Free Visual Perception Test-III.

On Wednesday, I was introduced to the Toolbox for Learning. The Toolbox includes the spanner for memory, the screwdriver for word-finding and the spirit level for helping you be ‘level for learning’. The OTs were responsible for the spirit level, spending the day by going around to each class and teaching the kids about the Brain Engine. (Too much energy, like a racecar, and your mind zooms around without absorbing anything and eventually crashing. Too little, and you’re too lethargic for your brain to take in anything. You need to be just right – alert but calm.) In the afternoon, I tried to introduce a class to the topic, and I think I did quite well considering how little I knew and how nervous I was.

Thursday and Friday were literacy assessment days, so while my PE assessed kids’ reading skills, I did some studying and tinkering on the iPad. I did watch a couple of the non-OT assessments and got to see two very different boys with dyslexia, the one with the better reading and comprehension oddly having less confidence. When my PE was in charge of entertaining the kids in her group of ten while one or two were being assessed by her co-teachers, she let me choose some of the activities. On the Thursday, we played a LOT of dodgeball, with me being used as a human shield quite a bit. On the Friday, I introduced a very unwilling group of kids to the Left/Right game. They all wanted to play dodgeball again, but they ended up loving my game! (Line up in the middle of the room. When the teacher says ‘left’, run left. Same for right. Wrong direction and you’re out. Significantly slower and you’re out. If the teacher says a different word, like ‘rice’, and you move, you’re out.) Finally, I also observed the Movement Assessment Battery for Children and a modified version of the Ayres’ Clinical Observations. They were both fascinating in their own ways.

I really hope I do well this placement, and I hope I continue to enjoy it here, as then I’ll know for sure that this is what I’m meant to do.