Category: Learning Support Assistants Course

marbles in sensory play

Sensory Cheat Sheets

Sensory Processing is one of my favourite topics and as someone who grew up with some sensory processing challenges and now as a professional working in occupational therapy I always find myself loving it when the topic of sensory processing comes up!

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motivation and children

Focus on Motivation

Find what is motivating for your student and incorporate this into the activities. If your student is motivated you will find they are able to maintain their attention for longer, will remember more of what you are teaching and will be better able to generalize these skills to other activities because they will have more engagement in the materials.

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goal setting

My Favourite Goal Setting Tool

Get started by watching our free short video on Goal Setting for Parents.

I’m definitely one of those “goals” people. I love setting goals, I love reading about how to set goals and when I get emails from Amazon there’s usually a goal book in their list of recommended books which means that even when I’m not buying books about goals I’m checking them out online!

Now I prefer to support my local library and have started buying less books (one of my personal goals!). One of the books is Brian Tracy’s Goals and I listen to the audio book version in the car. I’ve gone through all the processes of writing out the goals each day and have been able to cross out 8/10 of those goals. Still my favourite goal-setting tool hands down has to be the COPM.

That’s the OT in me! COPM is the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure. Unless you’re a fellow OT or other allied health professional I’m pretty sure you won’t have heard of this particular goal setting tool, but I want to give you a quick explanation and a link to get more information because I believe this can be invaluable in everyday life.

COPM is deceptively simple, which I love, it’s been in use around the world since 1991 and it’s available in over 35 languages! There’s a ton of research behind it and the underlying concept can be adapted to suit your own situation.

At it’s heart, the COPM asks you to look at different areas of your life – self-care, leisure and productivity. Here are some examples that could be used for a school student.

Self-care: While at school a student must be able to take off / put on school shoes, jacket, change into and out of physical education / sport clothes, open and close water bottles and snack containers, feed themselves, toilet themselves and more.

Leisure: While at school a student should be able to engage in enjoyable recreation and play (many will rightfully argue that play is actually in the productivity category for a child). Relaxation in-between active play, reading for leisure and enjoyment. Sports, crafts, music and art completed for enjoyment and personal expression rather than learning or skill development may fall into this category.

Productivity:  This category would include activities completed for learning and enrichment. Mathematics, language, literacy, science, social studies, arts, music, drama, and sports completed to develop knowledge and skills could be placed in this category.

This goal setting tool allows you to take in a wide range of factors when helping someone to set goals. Their age, interests, roles and responsibilities, environment, motivation, current level of skill can all be taken into account. The COPM is completely individualised. It allows you to measure performance on a task and most importantly measures satisfaction with your performance. While the COPM is a standardized test that is implemented by trained clinicians you can apply the idea behind it to goal setting in your own life.

  1. Problem Definition: What do you need to do, want to do or are expected to do but cannot currently do?
  2. Rate Importance: How important is being able to do this activity to you? Rate importance on a scale of 1 to 10.
  3. Choose Problems: Choose up to 5 of the issue that have been identified.
  4. Score Performance and Satisfaction: On a scale of 1 to 10 rate how you feel you currently perform this skill (1 is poor performance and 10 very good performance). Rate how satisfied you are with your performance on this skill (1 low satisfaction and 10 high satisfaction).
  5. Reassess: After working on the areas identified again self-rate your performance and satisfaction for each of these areas.

You can see these steps in action by jumping over to the COPM site where there are examples for each step.

You may also enjoy reading the author’s comments on using the COPM with children

set your goals

Goal setting

You have probably heard the acronym “SMART Goals”






When a parent or therapist is creating goals for a child these goals should be child centred and wherever possible the child should be enabled to set their own goals.

In a school context an Individual Education Plans (IEP) is created by a team. In some instances the child will attend the meeting and will be able to contribute to the development of their education goals. Goals should always be meaningful to the child and should make a difference in their lives.

Goals must be functional and they must be measurable. O’Neill and Harris (1982) propose goals should include the following:


Will do what

Under what conditions

How well

By when

Applying this to an IEP:

Who – The student’s name

Will do what – For example will sit on the carpet for 20 minutes during circle time in the classroom.

Under what conditions – Sitting on a move n’ sit cushion, with access to fiddle toy of their choice with Learning Support Assistant (LSA) seated behind the child.

How well – Student will remain seated without verbal prompting in 9/ 10 instances

By When – by the end of the first month (or give dates).

Now we’ve set the goals..

It is very important when considering goals to take into consideration “So What?” What does achieving this goal mean for the child?  What will this goal actually enable the child to be able to do? Is achieving this goal actually going to produce any meaningful change anything for the student?
In the above example: Our goal is for the child to be able to use sensory supports to enable them to participate in circle time in the classroom with their peers for 20 minutes at a time. Our “So what?” for this goal: This will enable the child to have access to the curriculum being taught at this time.

This allows the child to be with their peers in class (by reducing distracting behavior, or by reducing running from class or other applicable change).

This allows the child to be more independent by reducing reliance on the LSA to be with their class in a meaningful way.

This actively encourages the LSA to reduce their prompts to the child.

Enabling the student to self select or manage a sensory tool can be included in a separate goal in their IEP if relevant.


O’Neill DL, Harris SR. Developing goals and objectives for handicapped children. Phys Ther.1982 ;62:295–298.

confident children

Building self-esteem and confidence

Self-esteem and confidence are major traits in individuals that affect their success. While these are a lifelong process, the foundation of it needs to be established in early childhood. Building self-esteem will allow the child to deal with difficult situations that they will encounter during their lifetime.

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