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  • The Right to Write: AIU Spotlight on Occupational Therapy Handwriting Supports

    Posted by AIU on 3/14/2023 12:30:00 PM
    AIU Occupational Therapist Darla Donnell practices handwriting with students at Shaler Area School District.
    "Practice makes perfect. After a long time of practicing, our work will become natural, skillful, swift, and steady.” — Bruce Lee 

    Evidence-based research shows that practicing handwriting using structured therapeutic instruction is the most effective method of improving handwriting. Therapists work with students one-on-one to build handwriting skills and then provide strategies for the teacher to support the student carrying over those skills into the classroom.

    The written word has multiple components that students must learn to effectively participate in the classroom.

    AIU Occupational Therapist Darla Donnell practices handwriting with students at Shaler Area School District.Components for legible handwriting include letter formation and letter sizing, line awareness, spacing and accurate copying skills. AIU Occupational Therapists (OTs) evaluate these components to determine a student's areas of need to support them to participate in their educational program. 

    Just as the English language has its phonetic complexities, the written word has the added dimension of physical outputs in the form of letter formation, keeping an orderly string of text and spacing, among other components. Some of the strategies used can be pencil grips to support grasp, highlighted lined paper and supports for spacing between words.

    Then there’s speed.

    “Some children try to write quickly and they need to learn to slow down and pace themselves,” says Mary Grassi, Supervisor of Occupational and Physical Therapy at the AIU. “We're not looking for perfection with [a student’s] letter formation or writing their letters just like in a book,” she added. “We want them to be able to write so that it is readable.”

    OTs like Darla Donnell practices handwriting with primary students at Shaler Area School District.

    Occupational therapists with the AIU use programs with proven effectiveness, including Handwriting Without Tears® and the Size Matters® handwriting program, among others. These programs often focus on the sizing of letters, the relative height of “tall” letters (such as h, d, and k) and differences between uppercase and lowercase letters, and much more.

    In some cases, students may be unable to reach a point of legibility. The AIU’s OTs understand and meet every student where they are to provide the best adapted support. They include low-tech and high-tech adaptations such as adapted paper, use of keyboards via iPads or Chromebooks and supportive software to produce written communication. 

    “The main purpose is for them to participate successfully in their education,” Grassi said. 

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  • Photo Gallery: 2023 Golden Hammer Awards!

    Posted by AIU on 3/8/2023 12:30:00 PM

    Last month, our talented vocational students at Mon Valley School were honored at the annual Golden Hammer Awards ceremony!

    Students, parents and teachers gathered at the school media center to reflect on the hard work, contributions and achievements of vocational students at Mon Valley School. With eight vocational programs in highly-demanded fields, from childcare to manufacturing, Mon Valley School is preparing students for future success.

    See the celebrations in the photo gallery below! Congratulations to our wonderful students, and thanks to the technology and food service classrooms for designing and creating the incredible award plaques and tasty baked goods, respectfully!

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  • Photo Gallery: Basketball Season-Ender at Sunrise!

    Posted by AIU on 3/7/2023 1:00:00 PM

    Our basketball season came to an end and it was truly March Madness! The March 1st game of Pathfinder School at Sunrise included a roaring halftime performance from each school's cheer squad and an eye-popping number of three pointers!

    Take a look at all the fun in the gallery below! Thanks to our students and teachers for another incredible season of athletics! We're off to Pathfinder next week for the return of the Pathfinder Swimming Invitational!

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  • Photo Gallery: 2023 Pathfinder Fashion Show!

    Posted by Junior Gonzalez on 2/28/2023 2:25:00 PM

    Our students know how to dress to impress!

    Last week, students at Pathfinder School participated in a fun and educational celebration of expression and presentation as part of the school's annual fashion show!

    This unique event not only allows students to wear uniquely fancy (or even comfortable) clothing — the show also demonstrates attire across multiple settings -- an essential career, as well as life, skill. Rooms were assigned categories for an array of times and environments, including dress for all four seasons, special occasions, office attire, gardening, travel and even costumes! 

    Students, teachers and parents all had smiles during the show. See for yourself in the gallery below! Thanks to our hosts, Ms. Lori and Ms. Devon for leading the festivities!

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  • Photo Gallery: Happy Valentine's Day!

    Posted by AIU on 2/14/2023 2:10:00 PM

    On this Valentine's Day, we hope you spend time with those you care about, including your friends! Our AIU-operated Special Education Schools held fun friendship dances last Friday, including special crownings at Sunrise School! Take a look at all the fun in the photo gallery below!

    Happy Valentine's Day!

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  • Photo Gallery: 2023 Pathfinder School Spelling Bee!

    Posted by AIU on 2/10/2023 12:20:00 PM

    Our students had a blast at the 2023 Pathfinder Spelling Bee! The competition went on for more than 9 rounds until we got a winner in Kaleb! Congratulations to him and runner-up Kody on a hard-fought challenge!

    See more photos of our competing students in the gallery below!

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  • The first-ever AIU Bowling Tournament!

    Posted by AIU on 1/20/2023 9:00:00 AM

    No spares here!

    On Jan. 19, students from Pathfinder, Mon Valley and Sunrise schools took part in an epic (and friendly) battle for the first-ever AIU-operated Special Education Schools bowling tournament! The event, which took place at Spins Bowl in West Mifflin, included a pizza party, numerous strikes and tons of sportsmanship!

    Events like these build on our shared belief as an organization to be responsive to the needs of all learners. Sports offer many positive qualities, such as teamwork, sportsmanship and perseverance.

    Congrats on our students for completing their first bowling meet! Next, we'll see them on the basketball court! March Madness!

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  • Photo Gallery: Happy Holidays from the AIU!

    Posted by AIU on 12/22/2022 2:00:00 PM

    All week long, our AIU-operated Special Education Schools have been celebrating the holiday season and the upcoming winter break to spend time with our loved ones. There was a holiday-themed talent show at Mon Valley, a holiday pet celebration and read-along at Pathfinder, and a plethora of activities at Sunrise School, among many other events!

    December is always a magical time at Sunrise, between the themed dress-up days, to presents from the police, and the visits from Santa and the grinch – the building is filled with laughter and joy.

    The holidays started off with a visit to Biondi where the students decorated the tree and sang Christmas carols (see the previous photo gallery from earlier this month). Students then participated in a gingerbread building contest where they put their STEAM skills to the test. 

    Next came the presents. The students at Sunrise received numerous presents from local community organizations, including Biondi Lincoln, PLS, Monroeville United Methodist Church, and various police departments. 

    Lastly, on the last day before the break, the students had a special breakfast and were visited by Mr. and Mrs. Claus, their reindeer (Rudy and Cherry), and had the opportunity for a horse carriage ride through the parking lot.  

    Sunrise is always a special place, but it is extra special in December. See the fun at all three of our AIU-operated schools down below! Happy Holidays!

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  • Photo Gallery: Sunrise School Chorus Performance at Lincoln Biondi!

    Posted by AIU on 12/14/2022 5:30:00 PM

    Our holiday celebrations have begun!

    Last week, the Sunrise School Chorus performed carols at Lincoln Biondi, continuing a tradition between the school and the local car dealership after a yearslong, pandemic-related pause. The performance was followed by a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus, as well as some early presents provided for students!

    Special thanks to Lincoln Biondi for hosting our students and being longtime supporters of our program. Season's greetings!

    Check out all the fun in the gallery below!

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  • Photo Gallery: Thanksgiving 2022

    Posted by AIU on 11/23/2022 9:00:00 AM

    As we enjoy the extended weekend to gather with our families and loved ones for the most thankful time of the year, take a look at all the ways our students expressed Thanksgiving!

    Over the past week, students at Mon Valley, Sunrise and Pathfinder schools took part in fun-filled activities including the Thanksgiving Feast and Turkey Trot at Sunrise, the Harvest Hoedown and Turkey Design Competition at Pathfinder, and the 2nd annual Turkey Bowl at Mon Valley! In addition, students from Mon Valley's child development vocational program worked with young children to make stylish paper turkey hats!

    See photos of all the festivities in the gallery below! We're so thankful to our community!

    From all of us at the AIU, we wish you a wonderful, warm and joyous Thanksgiving!

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