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OTSH 87: Fostering Safe & Regulating Environments in the Classroom with Dr. Jamie Chaves, OTD, OTR/L


OT School House Podcast Episode 72 journal club how much of school is fine motor anyways?

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Welcome to the show notes for Episode 87 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast.


School-based occupational therapists wear many hats. Sometimes we treat students individually and other times we have to train the teachers in ways they can support students in the classroom.


Today, we are focusing on supporting teachers in fostering safe and regulating environments in the classroom for students with sensory differences.


Joining me today to discuss this topic is Dr. Jamie Chaves, OTD, OTR/L, SWC. Dr. Chaves is a pediatric occupational therapist and is also the OT Division Leader at the Center For Connection. Along with co-author, Ashley Taylor, Psy.D., Dr. Chaves has written two books to support therapists and educators working with students who have sensory differences.


You can find both books on Amazon. They are titled “The Why Behind Behaviors” and “Creating Sensory Smart Classrooms


*Affiliate links included help the OT School House to earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.



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Transcript

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OTSH 87_ Fostering Safe & Regulating Environments in the Classroom with Dr
. Jamie Chaves,
Download JAMIE CHAVES, • 190KB

Jayson Davies

Hey, everyone, welcome to the OT Schoolhouse podcast. Thank you for being here really appreciate you being here to listen to this episode of the OT Schoolhouse podcast. And for just being a part of the OT Schoolhouse community. I can't believe that we are almost to the end of 2021. 2020 and 2021 have just gone by so quickly and well, things are changing so much right now within the world. We've got so much going on. And I am just so happy that you have decided to spend a part of your day with me and Dr. Jamie Chaves, who we are having on the podcast today. Dr. Jamie Chaves is a doctor of occupational therapy. She is also a licensed occupational therapist and she actually has a few different roles. So I want to share those with you. She works at the Center for Connection in Pasadena, California. And she is also the author of two books with her colleague, Ashley Taylor, who we will talk about a little bit later as well. The two books that she has written or co-written with Ashley are Creating Sensory Smart Classrooms and The WHY Behind Behaviors. We're actually going to dive into both of those books a little bit today, or at least the contents of those. This is definitely not a sales pitch for the books. But there is a lot of great information from those books that come out in this podcast episode. This interview with Jamie is such a great interviewer, you're going to learn so much about sensory processing, sensory integration, and really fostering safe environments within the classroom. And I cannot wait for you to hear it. So go ahead, put those phones in your pocket. Turn the speakers, put those headphones in to start your jog or your workout, whatever you're doing, driving, and enjoy this episode with myself and Dr. Jamie Chaves. Hey, Jamie, welcome to the OT Schoolhouse podcast. How are you doing this morning?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

I'm doing really well. Thank you. Thanks for having me.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, definitely. I'm excited you have a book out, actually, you have two books out. We're talking about one today creating sensory smart classrooms. And that was written by yourself as well as Ashley Taylor. And I do want to allow you to give a moment to give a shout-out to Ashley and talk a little bit about her as well. But first, I want to ask you about your career as an occupational therapist and just share a little bit of background about yourself.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Sure, I've been an occupational therapist for nine years now. And I kind of stumbled upon the profession when I was in undergrad and just fell more and more in love with it as I went through grad school, which is always a good thing. I wasn't backpedaling. And I've always been really passionate about children. And one of the areas of research I spent a lot of time on in grad school was children and orphanage-like settings. And as I was doing that research, so much was coming up about sensory and motor development and how those things are impacted in orphanages and foster homes and when a child is adopted, and so that got me down the rabbit hole of sensory processing and sensory integration. And my first job was in a clinic with kids of varying developmental needs. And there were a lot of sensory-motor needs. And so I just continued to learn more and more about it. And that's my area of specialty now is sensory integration.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. And so you actually do have your doctorate in OT, what was that experience? Like? Did you focus specifically on kids in the orphanage? Is that kind of where you went or sensory integration or what?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yes, my doctoral project was all on looking at the occupation and the occupational performance factors in orphanage-like settings, and I actually did my four-month apprenticeship at an orphanage in Romania.


Jayson Davies

Oh, wow.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

And work with caregivers who were at that orphanage.


Jayson Davies

Wow, that must have been an amazing definitely outside-of-the-box experience.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

It was one of the most challenging things I've done and also one of the richest learning experiences I've had as well.


Jayson Davies

And in Romania, then is occupational therapy, even really a thing out there. I know as far as I don't know, I talk to people outside of the country, and like occupational therapy isn't even a profession in some countries. So in Romania, is it a profession, is it something is it similar but called something different? Or? Yeah,


Dr. Jamie Chaves

There is a profession called occupational therapy, and it shares the same name. But I would say they're about 50 years behind where the United States is. So they're still doing a lot of those like craft-based, leather-based, like leatherworking. Yeah, like a lot of those types of occupational therapy, tactics, and they aren't really a well-recognized profession. And you don't really have to have a degree to get into the profession. It's more of like an associate's degree level. At least it was 10 years ago, I'm not exactly sure how it's progressed. Since then, I haven't really kept up to date on that. And pediatric occupational therapy was pretty much non-existent. It was all working with adults with mental and developmental disabilities.


Jayson Davies

Gotcha. Okay, that was gonna be my next question. Because historically, you know, occupational therapy in America really seems like it developed based upon a rehabilitative model. You know, after World War One, it was really working with armed services, right, or people that were coming back and were injured in OT was helping them to rehabilitate and get back to, "normal life". So I was wondering how that would look like in Romania. So it's mostly mental health and a little bit of rehabilitation.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yes. And it's very much. It's not an integrative thing. It's not trying to integrate people back into society or back into their families. It's like these. They're basically outcasts. And they, there's these occupational therapists who are working with these people who are who would otherwise be unsupported and not really seen as contributors to society or participants in society.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, very different.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yes.


Jayson Davies

Well, thank you for sharing that. So you said that was about 10 years ago, you've been working really, primarily with a pediatric population. And so where are you now then?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

I'm at the Center for Connection in Pasadena, California. The executive director is Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, who's the author, co-author of the whole brainchild and no Jama discipline, and they have several more books out as well. And she really, she has her Ph.D. in social work. And she really saw how what they were doing in mental health wasn't the whole picture. And there were missing pieces of the puzzle. So she started putting together a team that was more integrative and could put all the pieces together. And she saw occupational therapy as one of the biggest pieces of missing pieces of the puzzle. So she asked me to come on board, and I helped start the OT department there. And I'm at home full time with my two toddlers right now. So I'm not in the clinic full time and haven't been for the past two and a half years. But I'm hoping to get back there in the next couple of years.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. Yeah, I've heard great things about the center. And you know, we've had Olivia Martinez-Hauge on the show, and she also is a part of that center. And it's just amazing how someone who is not an occupational therapist who started this center really sees the value that occupational therapists can provide for all the people that that come into that center. So it's quite amazing that a social worker, by trade by training, is so invested in occupational therapy and sees our value. So that's just really cool. I really appreciate that. All right, so let's go ahead and dive into our real topic. For today. It was great doing a little introduction. But I want to know and you have written a book about this, along with your colleague, Ashley Taylor, but we want to know about how to support teachers with sensory regulation, self-regulation, and fostering safe regulating environments for students with varying sensory needs. So I think a great place to start would be to start with the current problem. What are you seeing in classrooms that led you to focus on supporting teachers within with regulating environments?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Well, one of the things is that I've seen how empowered teachers feel, even when they just have this information. So many teachers don't get information. I mean, it's not taught in their classes in school, and so they don't get information about what does it mean to be regulated in order to learn and what is sensory processing? And what does it mean to feel safe in your environment? So empowering teachers to be able to ask different questions and see behaviors in a different light, and also empowering teachers to examine themselves and how they might not feel safe or regulated, or have their sensory needs met in the classroom, either, and how can they examine that to say, hey, I need to find support in this area, so I can support my students better. And also just seeing how empowered students feel when teachers are actually hearing them and responding to their needs for being regulated, or their sensory needs, which are also needs for being regulated. But yeah, I've just seen the trickle-down effect and how students participate more and feel more engaged in the learning process.


Jayson Davies

Gotcha. And so when you develop this book before it was a book, were you providing training to teachers in some capacity.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

That's basically what this book came out of, I had started doing some training a handful of years ago for teachers, just during lunch hours. And then it evolved into a 10-hour course, that I put together on sensory processing. And I thought, hey, this could be a book if put this down on paper. And so that's what we did.


Jayson Davies

Wow, that's amazing. So it really just started with a little lunchtime, you know, conversations with the teachers. And it's amazing what that can turn into. I know right now, you know, it's a big focus for occupational therapy within the schools, to not just see students individually in a pull-up model, you know, the more that we educate teachers on things that they can do within the classroom, the more that those teachers can then implement, just like what you're trying to do with his book. And I often like to say, you know, I could spend 30 minutes helping one student and a pullout session, or I could spend 30 minutes, I shouldn't say, or it's more of an and, and I can spend 30 minutes working with a teacher, and that teacher can then support. However many kids are in their classroom for the entire week, for the entire year. And then for the kids that they have next year and the kids that they have the year after that in the year after that. So knowledge is so powerful. And so I just love that you're spreading your knowledge and not keeping it all into yourself and only using it during your one on one sessions. Right. It's great that we're able to actually share that knowledge. That's so cool. So what have you found in regards to common misconceptions that teachers often have about sensory and regulating environments? I'm sure that when you're providing those training to them, you might get some pushback or just questions. And what are some of those questions or misconceptions you often hear?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

I think one of the things that frustrations that teachers face, and it's not just teachers, its parents, it's also therapists is that the sensory strategies, or the regulation strategies, the co-regulation strategies, they should work all the time, every time, and it's just not true. We change from day to day, we change from hour to hour, and what works one time might not work the next time. But that doesn't mean that it's not going to work again, or that it's a failed strategy. And so having multiple tools in your tool belt is something that's really important. And going along with that setbacks are normal, like, we don't progress, none of us progress. But we certainly don't develop or learn in a linear fashion. It's kind of two or three steps forward, and then maybe one or two steps back. And it's this push-pull process. And that's true of meeting kids' regulatory needs in the classroom as well. I think also, what I've seen, and we'll talk about some more of the sensory nook suggestions, but I've seen a lot of classes where teachers have self or CO regulation strategies or sensory strategies in the classroom. And they allow the child five minutes or 10 minutes or three minutes or whatever the time limit is. And I think there's a big misconception that regulation should happen within a confined period of time. And it could be that one day a child needs three minutes to step away, or the next day they might need 10 or 25. And I think it's important to not put those time limitations because ultimately it is going to negatively impact how they're participating or how engaged they are. And if you just allow them that extra 10 or 15 minutes, even if it seems like a waste of time to you are a waste of class or a waste of instruction. Are they missing out on a big piece? Ultimately, they're going to feel safer and more regulated in the classroom. So the next time they do come in, they are at a better place to be more focused and engaged, rather than feeling like, "Oh, man, if I get dysregulated, I only get five minutes. And if I'm not regulated again in five minutes, what's going to happen? I have to pull it together." So yeah, I would say those are some of them.


Jayson Davies

That's exactly what I see, too. And going to the next step, because I see this as well as you know, sensory processing sensory integration. It's a difficult concept to understand. And so I wanted to ask you, like, what is kind of your go-to blurb? You know, when you're explaining very quickly to a teacher, what sensory processing is, what sensory integration is, and how it will impact the students that they work with?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, my line is really sensory processing is how we make sense of our own bodies, how we make sense of what's happening in the environment, and how we relate to other people. And this all sets the foundation for our regulation, and regulation is the foundation for being engaged and being able to access your higher-level cognitive skills, which are what you typically are doing in the classroom.


Jayson Davies

Great. And that actually leads right into my next question, because you and I, haven't been in the traditional classroom and a few years, nine years, it sounds like we're both been practicing occupational therapists. And so we haven't taken an anatomy class or physio class in a while. But in your book, near the beginning chapter, I know you guys kind of dive into the anatomy a little bit, and more so about how the amygdala and how the oh gosh, the hypothalamus, and how they all work a little bit to create a response, whether it be the parasympathetic or sympathetic nervous system. And so if you wouldn't mind just kind of explaining that route that a sensory stimuli kind of goes up through the brain a little bit and where that sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system kicks in of it.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

So when we talk about the system, particularly involved with the amygdala, we're talking about sensory modulation, which is one of the three branches of sensory integration. And sensory modulation is really important for our sense of regulation and determining what is safe and unsafe in our environment. So when we have some sort of sensory stimulus come in, all of the sensory systems passed through the thalamus, except one, I think it's olfactory, maybe it's either the olfactory, or gustatory, doesn't pass through the thalamus, which is then passed to the amygdala, the amygdala is really the center that determines what is safe and unsafe, because should I be fearful of this or not fearful of this, and if the amygdala is saying, "Hey, you should be fearful of this. That's really what triggers your fight flight or freeze response." If the amygdala says, "Hey, this is safe, you don't need to worry, you've already paid attention to it, and it's not a big deal", then the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and says, "Hey, you can call him back down and you can carry on with your life." And the example that I like to give is, if you're in a cafe and you hear a dog barking, for example, you are likely, if you have a typically functioning auditory system, you're going to respond to that dog and you're going to turn and attend to it and your amygdala, your brain is going to be like, "Hey, whoa, I need like, that was a really loud sound. And I need to assess is this something I need to pay more attention to and act on? Or is it something where I can just remain calm and go back to reading my book?" And so most of us would turn and see like, oh, okay, the dogs on a leash and the owners got the dog under control. I don't have to be worried. The next time the dog barks because our brain hopes to habituate to the responses. Our brain isn't activated in the same way. Because our brain already knows I'm in a safe context. That dog isn't a threat to me. And we don't have to be constantly triggered. But kids who do have difficulty processing auditory input if they are overstimulated, would turn every single time and have that same sympathetic response of "oh, oh my gosh, that dogs barking again. Whoa, do an" If they couldn't focus on reading their book, they'd get a half a page read and a half an hour where we could finish a whole chapter because our, our system is regulated, and we can engage in something else.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, and the brain really is amazing, I don't know, organism, I guess, you know, it's quite amazing what it can do, and how it uses past experiences to also help us regulate because, you know, the brain would not be very functional if every time we got a new sensory stimulus, we weren't able to relate it to something that we had heard or seen or smelled in the past. And so it's amazing how it can work so quickly, and how it can recall all those past experiences so quickly. But like you're mentioning, if the brain can't do that, then you're going to have that same experience over and over again, where it's trying to figure out, am I in a safe environment. And if it doesn't have any past experiences to reference to, you're going to kind of go through that flight, fight, flight or freeze every single time as opposed to already having a reference point. And knowing Yes, I'm in that safe spot. So Wow, pretty, it's pretty crazy how the brain works, I got to give it that one of the words that you have really keyed on is safe. And you mentioned that students have to feel safe in their classrooms to feel safe in the cafeteria. What do you mean by safe in relation to a student's classroom setting?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, so really, when I'm talking about safety, and well, Ashley and I are talking about safety, particularly in our books, we're talking about nervous system regulation. And going back to the amygdala, is the amygdala feeling safe and calm, is the nervous system imbalance where the sympathetic nervous system isn't taking over for the brain, and the student can feel like, they can just operate as usual through life, which is what most of us do, where we are in a calm, alert state. That's really what safety is for our nervous system. And it's really rooted in the positive, trusting relationships that we have through co-regulation. It's based on a sense of control over your own body over the environment, you know, what to anticipate out of your body, you know, what to anticipate out of the environment, and you can trust in those things. And you can trust the people who are also around you.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And so then how do you teach teachers a way for them to facilitate that safety? Is there a specific strategy or set of strategies that you're able to help them with?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

I think the first thing is teachers' understanding, we call it the teacher-student response cycle. And teacher's understanding, how their responses and how their own regulation can impact a student's regulation. And thus, a student's response is really a foundational point, because that's how we can get to a co-regulation state, that if a student is feeling really frustrated about doing something and throws a book across the room, and the teacher comes up and says, "Hey, you can't do that you need to go pick up that book right now", then that might trigger the student even more, and then their behavior is going to be reflective of that. But if the teacher can get into a better state of regulation, himself, approach the child and say, "Hey, it sounds like you're getting really frustrated. Let's try to figure out what we can do differently here." The teachers in a regulated state, the student is going to match that regulation, and then they can move forward with the problem-solving stage, and it might not happen that fluidly. But that's the general concept of it. Because co-regulation is really the foundation of self-regulation. And you have to have that established first. And there are so many self-regulation strategies out there. But really, it's co-regulation strategies, shared moments of joy, seeing songs together, taking pictures together, talking about what happened over the weekend together. I think those can be really powerful co-regulation experiences between teachers and students.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, that leads into another question that I have then, based upon your response, you know, you mentioned co-regulation, and I think that really is an occupational therapy term. I think that or maybe not Occupational Therapy specific but more of mental health, medical term per se. And I don't think it's a term that teachers would really associate with. And I don't know if they have a term for that. Maybe it's school culture, potentially. But how can an occupational therapist working in a school help teachers to understand that term co-regulation? Do you think that trainings are the best way? Or do you think potentially getting into the classroom and maybe modeling it? How can an OT who's working in a school help teachers to understand the concept of co-regulation?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

I think it's both ends. I think understanding the underlying concepts around it, and how the nervous system works, and how self-regulation does develop out of co-regulation. What are the zones of regulation, all of that terminology is a really important foundation. But then seeing done and in action is also just such a powerful method of learning. I just wrote a blog post about multi-sensory learning. And that's what that is, I mean, you're like experiencing, it's more of this kinesthetic experience. And then you can step in and or the teacher can step in and say, Okay, let me take over from here and see how I can do it, and model it for the student in the same way that you are modeling it for that teacher. But yeah, I think I mean, it's a process and I, as a parent too like, I use co-regulation so much as a parent. And it's a process, I know all of the things, and I've seen it modeled before, and I've done it myself before. And it still is, it just takes practice. And so just encouraging teachers to start somewhere and start with something and build off of that, knowing that it's never too late to change. And you don't have to be afraid to do things differently and think differently because it is kind of countercultural to what a lot of the behavioral strategies are out there.


Jayson Davies

Exactly. Yeah. And that's where I was gonna go with the next question, a little off-script. But talking about that behavioral change, you know, so much for the last 100 years, or more, I don't know, schools have been so focused on behavior. And we think how much progress public education has made, you know, you can't walk around and hit a kid sand with a ruler any more, like you used to be able to do back in the 40s, or whatever it was, but there is still a very much a behavioral approach from teachers. And it can be difficult to change that mindset. And I think by bringing in that co-regulation idea, you are in a roundabout way, changing the shift from behavior to regulation. And so I think that's an important context. You know, we moved from potentially having clip charts to being more in tune with the child and meeting them where they are. And so I don't even know if this is leading to a question, honestly. But I know that's a big shift right now. But it is also a very difficult shift for teachers because that is what they learn. And, you know,


Dr. Jamie Chaves

and it's not just teachers,


Jayson Davies

True


Dr. Jamie Chaves

it's parents, it's, I mean, it's society culture as a whole. I mean, I don't, it's kind of a trickle-down effect. And I don't want to totally call them out. But pediatricians like that's how they're guiding parents in behavioral-based strategies because they're not getting this information in school. But they're the ones that parents pass through when their kids are toddlers, and they're first acting out. And a lot of teachers are parents. And so they've gotten that information from the pediatrician. And they've used that as parents, and then they're enacting it in their classroom because, and it's like this huge cultural shift of like, we need to educate so many people on this shit like, it's the pediatricians, as well as all of us therapists and teachers and parents. And but yeah, I mean, it is a really hard shift when it has been so embedded in our culture that, well, if a child keeps doing this, they're going to learn that that's okay. Well, if you keep attending to a child's regulation needs, then they're not going to keep doing it because they are going to feel safe and they are going to feel like they have their needs met and that you can problem-solve together and find a different pathway forward.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, and or Earlier you talked about and this ties right into it, I wanted to talk about it when you mentioned it earlier, you talked about how sometimes a teacher or even a therapist or parent, we say you have five minutes to go get regulated? And well, there's a problem in the whole sense with that, because you're saying, I'm going to use a behavioral approach for an hour, and then now go get regulated in five minutes. Versus what if we turn that into instead of a behavioral approach for an hour, five minutes for regulation? What if we spent that entire hour with the regulation approach and co-regulating with the students and saying, all right, yes, you're frustrated at the minute, number one. But let's start there with co-regulation, not wait 60 minutes later, to let you have a break and potentially go get regulated. And so changing that mindset, we can't just change that mindset for five minutes a day or five minutes every hour, there really needs to be a whole paradigm, you know, full-day, every minute of everyday shift. And so I think that's very important. And that's awesome, that, that you're working on that shift with so many other people, too.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, and it's a shift from what we typically do as like rewards punishment, even in terms of like, oh, well, I know, playing outside is really regulating for you, or I know this, the sensory nook is really regulating for you. So finish these finish writing these two sentences, and then you can go to the sensory nook and calm down, like, no, go to the sensory nook, and calm down, and then come back and finish writing these two sentences. And it'll go faster, the child will be in a better cognitive state because they won't be so triggered in their lower levels of the brain that they can access those higher levels of the brain. And that writing experience will be wired more positively in their brain rather than negatively. And, yeah, I mean, we want to, we want to hurry things along and say just write these two sentences, and then you can go off and do your thing. But really, it's the opposite that we need to be focused on. And like you're saying, it could be that the child spends 20 minutes and that sensory nook rather than 20 minutes at the desk, struggling to write those two sentences.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, and I want to talk more about the environment in the note, but based upon what you're just saying, one of the things that OTs I don't think have been the best at and our counterpart with behavior lists are really good at is documenting, and documenting how things are working. And they sit there with a notepad, and they marked down every single thing that works and doesn't work. And then they're able to present these very detailed charts that show you know, progress, potentially, because the student is learning over time, hey, if I write those two sentences, I get to go to the nook a little bit faster. And so the time goes down 20 minutes, Monday, 19 minutes, Tuesday, whatever. But how do we document that doing the opposite using a co-regulation approach works in a way that we can kind of show the parents that it's working because we see it working? But how do we document that it's working?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, I think that's a good question. And I, I know that's a struggle for public health, too, when you're doing these, like preventative things, how you how do you show that it's actually preventing something from happening when it doesn't actually happen. And when you're a behavior analyst, you're looking at behaviors. And that's what we're doing as OTs too. We're just looking at the behaviors in a different way. And so you can still track those behaviors and the frequency of the behavior and the duration of the behavior. But the approach to the decrease of that is so different. It's not that you are you're moving a clip or you're giving them an incentive every time like, oh, he only needs five incentives now like, no, he only needs five minutes of being in a sensory nook or he only accessed a fidget toy three times today instead of eight times today. So I think we're still looking at those same behaviors, and we can document those behaviors in the same way. But the way that we're getting to the decrease in behaviors is really different.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, no, that makes sense. And I want to throw this out there too, is that the way that behavioral list their structure of practice is laid out? They are given the time to actually track data. When we think about a BCBA model. They have the BCBA who is kind of in a way the occupational therapist per se, right? We're the person doing the evaluation but then they have someone who is often sitting with a child for hours at a time. And they are marking down every single thing that happens. And as occupational therapists, we typically don't have that opportunity, even an occupational therapy assistant is not going to be one to sit with a child for three hours. And document every single time a student throws a book, or throws a pencil or refuses to do a task, or on a different side positively says, Hey, I need to go to the sensory nook, or hey, I need a break. So it's kind of difficult for us, to take data. And I know often a school-based occupational therapist, we are inclined. And we're, we're very polite about it when we try our best to get help from a teacher or help from a classroom aide to take that data for us. But to be fair, they have their own jobs to be doing. And it is very difficult for them to also take data on that when they're trying to. I mean, they're trying to teach that that's what their job is they're trying to teach. And it's hard for them to take data. And so I do kind of wish, and I'm almost jealous of these behavioral technicians that get to spend two hours, three hours, or even all day with a student. And I'm just like, man, what if I had one day that I could spend with one kid the entire day? Oh, and by the way, I'm in their natural context with the teacher there who I can also explain what I'm doing. And yeah, you know, I get a little jealous of that, because they do have that time with a child that we just don't have, we typically have a half-hour, maybe an hour, at best a week with a student. And I know there are studies going on right now to try and figure out dosages a little bit and compare that. But yeah, I just think it'd be awesome. If we could have just one opportunity to spend an entire day with a kid and how much progress we could potentially make. I don't know. Do you have any thoughts on that?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

No, I think it's true. And I mean, I honestly hope the model is shifting not only for the sake of OTs, for the sake of kids, I hope that the model is shifting away from ABA. And maybe it's more time like DIR floor time specialists who are spending the three hours a day in the classroom with them. And then they are getting these co-regulation techniques rather than behavior techniques. And floor time specialists can also measure data really well too I mean, in a different way. But yeah, I just hope the model is shifting away from so much of the ABA in the classroom and more of these co-regulation…


Jayson Davies

Strategies.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, strategy. Yeah. approaches.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. All right. It's so easy to get off topic when we start going down that route. But let's go back and get on the topic a little bit. Talking about the classroom environment, how do you support teachers in understanding that the environment can have an impact on a student's performance and the child feeling safe? We've talked a little bit about safety. And you've also discussed a little bit about the nooks. So maybe you can expand a little bit more on that?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Sure. Well, I would say one of the most enlightening things for teachers is two of them, actually, are one examining their own sensory preferences. I think a lot of people think of sensory and they think of sensory processing differences. But we all have sensory preferences. And once teachers realize, like, wow, I do have these sensory preferences, and they're inputs I lean into, and they're inputs that I stay away from and when I can't avoid those inputs, I feel more dysregulated. Or if I can't lean into the inputs, I need to I feel more dysregulated like I'm a sensory being too. I think that's really enlightening and helps them see all of their students in a different light and realize why someone might have different sensory needs on one day versus another day because teachers are realizing, hey, I have different sensory needs on a daily basis as well. And also, what I like to do with teachers is have them experience what different sensory processing differences might feel like. And that's something we put into our book as well. In each of the sensory chapters, we have an experience it box, and that's something that anyone reading the book could guide teachers through, just pick it up and say, Hey, teachers, we're going to go through this experience, and it really makes teachers step back and say, "Whoa, I can understand how a child would have a really hard time learning in this environment when this is what they might be experiencing"


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. So you've mentioned the nook a little bit during this hour so that we that we're talking and so what do you look for in a nook? Or when teachers are trying to develop a nook? What do you kind of recommend?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, so a sensory nook is really a place where kids can go and access different sensory inputs that would have a calming impact on their bodies. And it's not something that every student might access. And it might not be something that students access, even on a regular basis. And they might need different like one day, they might need body brakes versus going to the sensory knock, but it is, again, a tool in a teacher's tool belt. And so I like a place that has pillows, something soft, I like heavier pillows because they can give more appropriate receptive input, calming visual input, they have some of those fish tanks, those light-up fish tanks that kind of scroll around or like a lava lamp, but not one that plugs in, there's just like these things where the bubbles move in the water, something like that's really calming, there might be some noise-canceling headphones, there might be access to music, that's calming, they can put on headphones, and access calming music, fidgets might be like a basket of fidgets back there. And then I usually recommend having some sort of zones of a regulation chart with the green and red and blue zones, or different pictures of emotions, so that kids can communicate by pointing to different pictures because language is a higher-level cognitive skill that might drop out when kids are dysregulated. But so that they can communicate where they might be at in the process. And I think a lot of sensory notes have timers, and I really, really don't recommend having a timer in the sensory neck. I know you're asking what I do recommend, but I don't recommend putting a timer back there because it puts more pressure on the child and can make them feel anxious, which is a state of dysregulation about whether or not they're going to meet that time.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And you know, I think I already know the answer to this question. But what would you say to the teacher, the parent administrator, who says, "well, then what's going to happen while that one student is in the nook and is missing out on the instruction that the teacher is providing?" What's your response to that?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Well, I would say, particularly in younger years, I feel like this answer is easier because so much of the material is repeated. A lot of the instruction, like when you're learning to tell time, you don't just learn that in one, one instruction period, like you're doing it over multiple instruction periods. So I think it's easier to say, like, "Well, hey, they, they miss some of that, and they'll pick up where they left off the other day." But I think it's really important for people to see that regulation is just as important as taking in some of that cognitive information. And when kids are in a regulated state, they're going to be able to take it in faster, more likely, they'll be able to take it in faster, and they'll be able to integrate it a lot more, as well. So it might be that they just pick up where they left off. And then whatever the teacher needs to fill in, in a quick, quick lesson, it might just be that they kind of pick up there. But yeah, like I said, in the younger years, there's so much repetition that happens that I feel like it can naturally be folded into how the child's learning.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, and I think it's also a little, it's difficult to have the conversation, but it leads to an understanding of sensory processing. When we let the parent the teacher administrator, understand and let them know that that child isn't missing anything that they might have been already missing anyways because they were dysregulated. And so I could let them sit in that chair dysregulated for 20 minutes, not learning anything. Or I could let them go to the nook and become regulated in less than 20 minutes and get back to the task and potentially miss less instruction. And who knows while they're in the nook, regulating. They're still listening in in a little bit. And as they become more regulated, the more they might take in and so maybe instead of missing 20 minutes, they're missing five minutes, but they're in the note for an extra five to 10 minutes really getting to the point of regulation. And so they're still keying in on what's being said, maybe they're not seeing the board where the teachers writing down one plus one or whatever, but they're still potentially taking that in auditorily. So, yeah, I think it's really key that we let teachers know that part of it.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

I would agree.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. So we talked about a nook. But what about a sensory lab or motor lab? What are your thoughts on a motor lab within a classroom? That kind of looks more like a traditional sensory integration type of gym?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, I mean, I think it's great for school sites to have that it's great, particularly for kids who have sensory processing differences, who do need more of that because I see it written a lot, which is true to a degree, but I see it written that kids know their own sensory needs, and they will meet their needs. And then they will, like, kind of move on, which is, like I said, true for a lot of kids. But for sensory kids with sensory processing differences, that's not true. Their typical environments are not meeting their sensory needs, and they're not able to meet their own sensory needs, which is why they have sensory processing differences. So yeah, having a space to be able to access inputs that are more intense or less intense, or different than what their typical environment provides, I think is really helpful. The direction that Ashley and I really push for in our books is multi-sensory learning, where it's just folded into the curriculum and folded into the classroom engagement where kids are learning more through play and through experience and through Yeah, different ways of learning and doing and being and explicitly exploring with students how some students have strengths in some areas and vulnerabilities in some areas, and then other students, it's, it might be reversed, and how can those things complement each other? And how can we create a learning environment where everybody can learn, regardless of their strengths and vulnerabilities, rather than always leaning into the strengths of auditory and visual learners, which I think is what traditionally classrooms have done?


Jayson Davies

Yeah, I think you're right. And again, this kind of leads right into an area that I think is not well understood within sensory integration. And that's praxis. You know, when we think of sensory, we don't think of praxis, it's not a true sense. It's not a sense at all. It's a combination of how we act on our senses, along with the environment. And so I want to ask you a little bit about praxis and how you explain that to teachers, in the sense of learning, how does praxis impact learning? And how do you explain that to teachers?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, so what I've learned through the years is that praxis is really the foundation for executive functioning skills. And I think teachers know a lot more about executive function and how executive function impacts learning. And basically, if we can't organize our bodies and organize our body movements, and how we're moving through space, then organizing materials and objects, and thoughts within the environment are going to be even more difficult. So I think that's something that teachers can really relate to, in particular with praxis.


Jayson Davies

And then do you feel that praxis can have an impact on child safety and child regulation as well?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

It's one of the biggest factors I think I see with kids with sensory processing differences. I mean, the confidence that we gain through our movements and being able to depend on our movements and depend on our motor responses, and when we can't rely on that. It's so frustrating and it just becomes us a space where you're like, I don't want to try anymore, or I just want to be goofy because it hides the fact that this is challenging or, and so kids with praxis, I would say are one of the biggest group with dyspraxia, I should say, are one of the biggest groups who need co-regulation and who really need safe environments where they can trust what's going to happen and have things more in their sense of control and build their resilience more so that they can take steps to be more independent in some of the things that are really just so challenging and take up so much cognitive space that they don't have anything left to actually learn the math problem because they're taking up so much cognitive space just on figuring out how to hold the pencil.


Jayson Davies

Exactly. I agree. And, you know, that's one of the things that I find myself explaining within IEP meetings so often. It's just that, you know, handwriting we make it look simple. But there are so many factors that go into handwriting. And of course, praxis is one of them. And then you add on the demand of putting a sentence together, or you add on the demand of putting multiple sentences together, and you're just adding demand on demand on demand when something hasn't been perfected. And they're trying to relearn every single time how to make a letter R. And we're trying to get them to spell a word that has two R's in it, or whatever it might be. And so we're just adding demands before the student has kind of moved beyond that motor learning or beyond that praxis ability to muscle memory. And so yeah, that's, that's very difficult. I'll never, I'll never forget this one time, I was working with a kid. And she just threw her book and her pencil on the floor, I think we were coloring and it was something very simple, like just coloring in and shapes. And she became so distraught that she just threw everything off the table onto the floor. And immediately, she felt so sad and started apologizing, and went to go pick everything up. And I was like, that's not frustration. That's not a behavior of, I don't want to do this. That's a behavior of I can't do this, I need help. I don't want to do this, because it's difficult for me. And I think that just shows the praxis. And I think that shows how dyspraxia, like you're talking about, can lead to dysregulation so yeah, I'm right there with them I feel like practice is 100%, something that needs to be intact, in order for learning to occur in the classroom.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

And we actually wrote a whole chapter in our book, the why behind classroom behaviors, which is the first book we published, we wrote a whole chapter on handwriting, because we thought, this is an area that causes so much dysregulation, not only for students but also for teachers and helping teachers understand, like you said, what goes into handwriting and how many layers are present and that it's not a developmental skill, it's something that you truly have to learn through so many integrations through the integration of so many areas of the brain. So yeah,


Jayson Davies

so I think that's going to kind of wrap up what we're talking about. But I do want to dive into your book a little bit, I was reading it the other day. And I really love how you guys organized the chapters, and actually want to give you a second to kind of talk about that organization a little bit because you kind of talked about knowledge first, and then what a teacher may see and then kind of what they can do based upon that. And so I want to let you share how you and Ashley kind of developed the book and came to organize it.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, as I said, it was really developed out of the trainings that I was doing. And that just happened to be how I was organizing the trainings. And it was working for the educators with who I was doing the trainings. And they liked the flow of that. So I just kept it as the flow in the chapters. And I wanted to make it accessible, while at the same time, make it informative. And I want educators to have all of that information background, but then also not have to connect all the dots as to okay, how might I see this in the classroom? How might it be impacting kids' behaviors the most in the classroom? And then what might I see? And then how specifically, might I address this? And then, like I said, earlier, we wanted those experience, experiential learning things to be part of the picture as well so that teachers could take a step back and really feel like what sensory processing differences might be.


Jayson Davies

That's awesome. Yeah, I really love it. It's super affordable. I was telling you that earlier, I really expected this book to be more like the price of a textbook. And I love that you guys have made it right around that $29-30 price range. So it's actually accessible for both occupational therapists, teachers, any educator, which I love about that because the last thing anyone wants to do is to spend 120 bucks on a book and I know that's difficult. But at the $30 price range. This is information that's so valuable, that teachers can pick up and read a chapter a week and it's going to help them better understand their students that have sensory processing. differences. So that is awesome.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

And OTs too


Jayson Davies

and OT


Dr. Jamie Chaves

OT like OTs who are just starting off or even OTs been in the field for a while. I mean, I had OTs in mind when we were writing this as well because we all get different levels of training.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, and we all can't afford a $600 level one course from any of the sensory processing. Big. Yes, $30 You can't beat that for getting a very good start with sensory processing and understanding all of the senses from the five typical senses and then also into vestibular proprioception. I think you even wrote a little bit about interoception on the right. Yes, yeah. So it's a great place to start. I told you, I was gonna give you an opportunity to shout out to Ashley and I completely missed that part. So if you can share with us a little bit about Ashley, how you guys came to work together?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah. So Ashley Taylor is a PhRSID. She has a specialty in early childhood development. She's a practicing clinical psychologist, she does a lot of neuro-psych neuropsychological testing, I met her at the Center for Connection. And we just really hit it off. And we shared a lot of clients together. And we've learned so much from each other throughout the years. And I would really highly recommend all OTs to buddy up with somebody who does really good work on neuropsychological or psychoeducational testing and really understand those assessments and how they overlap with OT, and then vice versa, being able to share as an OT how what we are seeing in the kids and students that we work with, how that might inform the neuro-psych and psycho Ed assessments as well.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, and you know, I know, if you're not within a big city, like myself, and you are in Pasadena, a subset of a large city, then you're often left to work on your own as an occupational therapist, and you may not have another occupational therapist, within your city or sometimes within your county that you get to work with. And, you know, we have to remember that we can get knowledge from people who are not always occupational therapists, and our mentors can be people who are psychologists, speech and language pathologists, physical therapists, you know, we don't always have to have an occupational therapist, I recommend you do find occupational therapists. And that's probably why you're listening to this podcast right now. But at the same time, learn from people who are outside of the field of OT, because they have so much to teach us as well. And we also have so much to teach them. And so working together, using that interaction approach, we can support students from all sides, and not just from an OT lens, but from a PT, a speech, a teaching lens. So definitely agree with you there. So yeah, where can people learn a little bit more about you, if they want to buy the book? If they want to just get in touch with you? Where can they learn about you?


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, so we are on Instagram at the @whybehindbehaviors. My personal website is jamiechaves.otd.webstarts.com. And then our books, the why behind classroom behaviors. And creating sensory smart classrooms are both available on Amazon.


Jayson Davies

Great, and we will be sure to link all of those in the show notes. So be sure to head on over to the show notes for this page. You can find that in your podcast player and all of the links to her website to the Instagram pages, and the books will be there for you all to find super easily. So Jamie, thank you so much for coming on the show really appreciate having you on. And I know this specific, this topic, the knowledge that you've shared today is going to help so many occupational therapists, I mean the occupational therapy assistants, and in turn, hundreds 1000s Maybe of teachers and the students that they serve. So thank you so much for being here today.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Yeah, thanks for the conversation. That was great.


Jayson Davies

Definitely take care and have a great rest of your day.


Dr. Jamie Chaves

Thank you too. Bye-bye.


Jayson Davies

One more time. Thank you so much to Jamie for coming on the podcast and sharing all that information about sensory processing, sensory integration, and self-regulation, and safety within our students. She really obviously knows everything that she is talking about. And if you want to learn more about everything related to this topic, be sure to check out her book on Amazon. It's got a lot of great information and it is a pretty easy and also cheap read so be sure to check that out. Thank you so much for hanging in there and listening to this entire episode. I appreciate you being a part of the OT schoolhouse community. And I look forward to our next episode together. Take care. Have a great rest of your day and I'll see you next time. Bye.


Amazing Narrator

Thank you for listening to the OT Schoolhouse podcast. For more ways to help you and your students succeed right now, head on over to otschoolhouse.com. Until next time, class is dismissed.




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