You can work towards your Occupational Therapy goals at home too!

You can work towards your Occupational Therapy goals at home too!  

While Covid-19 has made our days unpredictable, some of us are still living our lives like we always have. Most if not many of us are racking our brains trying to keep the kids busy at home in order to provide continued structure untill they go back to school or therapy. I find myself thinking on daily: When will they go back to school? When can I go back to work? When can I bring them back to therapy or take them to their normal appointments etc.? Even through the unknowing, we need to remember, we can provide structure, predictability, and even therapy to the household.  

Here are some simple things you can do to keep therapy at home productive. 

  1. Keep the morning routine as if they are going to school or therapy.  

Continue to have everyone wake up around the same time they normally would. This is not a vacation; this is just a pause in their norm. Continue to get dressed, no laying around in pajamas all day. Staying in what we slept in signals our body that we aren’t ready for the day and to work. Most importantly, remember to eat breakfast, then get up and do something. This can look like several things depending on your routine, but remember to stay hydrated, nourish and move your body. 

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2. When it’s time to do therapy/school make sure the space is clear from distraction. 

Set up an area at the kitchen table, or a small working table for the kids with only what they will be using during their therapy/school time. Keep favorite toys away and electronics off. Even if they aren’t the ones using it. A good example would be the TV in the background; hearing this, let alone seeing it, is enough to distract each child away from something non-preferred.  

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3. Provide a visual schedule.  

Listing out what they need to do is a big motivator. Especially if you list a preferred item they DO get to engage with at the end. They can see what they are working towards. If your child can’t read yet, draw or use pictures. Once that task is complete, let them cross it off or erase it from the schedule. Being able to do this is a big motivator that they are one step closer to completing their therapy for the day. Lastly, Keep the visual schedule short. No longer than an hour at a time. You can always come back to do another list of items later. 

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4. Be available to help your kids. 

Being engaged in their therapy and tasks is very helpful. It shows each child that you are “in it” with them. When they are struggling with a task and they ask for help, encourage them to try independently first and then chime in or physically help them start the step, allowing them to finish it. A good example is buttoning a shirt. You can help feed the button halfway through, but allow them to pinch and pull the button to complete the task. Don’t be afraid to step back and let them struggle or even fail at the job. This is the only way they learn. Through trial and error, they gain increased independence and they learn from their mistakes. Encouraging them to use their own executive functioning skills such as problem solving or planning to work through each repetition. Remember, they are in a safe environment to make mistakes and you will be right there to help them along the process.  

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5. Use peer models if available 

If you have other children at home, involve them in the therapy process. There have been studies showing that watching a peer model complete a task, then having the child copy, furthers their learning at a faster pace. Some may know this as “monkey see, monkey do learning. Having peer involvement also allows for natural encouragement and social interaction with children around their age. As humans we learn by watching and trying to copy what we see, we thrive on engaging with others. This is an easy way to engage the whole family to spend time with one another and show their love and encouragement. 

                            peer model                                      

6. Most important, Make Therapy FUN 

This is by far the best way to get a “buy in” from kids that do not like to do challenging tasks. Use a character they love, their favorite color or a stuffed animal as a puppet, to encourage them to engage and try. At the clinic this is something that is done by a lot of clinicians. Find what interests the child and use that as a motivator with the task that needs to be worked on. Chanel your inner kid! If your child is 5, then you be 5. During this time, don’t take life seriously! If the kids mess up, don’t let it affect your perfectionistic parenting side. Brush it off and say,That’s ok, we all make mistakes, let’s try again”, or “Oh man, that’s hard for me too, lets help each other”. One that I use a lot is “I don’t know how to do this. Do you? Can you show me?” engaging in the same task, side by side. When others are doing the task as well its called “The group plan” and can help children stay focused on participating in the job. Everyone has their part, not just the child with the goal. It goes along with point 4 above. Be there to help and be silly and fun while you are doing it! 

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7. Lastly, Keep it simple. 

Use what is around your house. If the therapy goals are dressing, use their own clothes, start by practicing off the body at the table or on a doll. Then once they have that skill, complete it on their body. This adds another element that is challenging to motor plan while learning. Use items in the kitchen like tongs to pick up items if they have a grasp goal, or circle cereal to feed onto dried spaghetti noodles for more hand eye coordination. Use your imagination and creativity! You can always go online and find simple ideas for therapy in the home. Try not to add to many extra bells and whistles, just remember to keep it simple. 

                                                                     keep simple

This too will pass and we will be back in the clinics receiving therapy from the professionals and living our structured lives soon. Till then, hang in there parents! Take this time to enjoy the simple moments that we normally do not get and remember to breathe. You can do this! 

 

Breanna Mosebach, COTA/L 

PCI Certified Parenting Coach  

Helping Your Kids Reduce Anxiety During Covid 19 Situation

Helping Your Kids Reduce Anxiety During the Covid 19 Situation

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We are currently living in a time that is unsettling. We do not know what tomorrow will look like, if we will have jobs, if we can pay bills, if school will finish this year, etc. I am beginning to notice a change in our kids as well with their anxiety raising.

Many kids are enjoying this long break from school. I predict in a few weeks they will all be bored after being stuck home, not going anywhere, and not spending time with friends. I also am anticipating many kids having high anxiety as parents and caregivers begin to experience financial strain, job loss, changes in jobs, etc.

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So what can you do as a parent or caregiver to support you kids?

  • Check in with them daily to see what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Remind your kids this situation is a grown-up problem, and they should just focus on them being a kid, doing their expectations, and enjoying a break from school.
  • Share with your kids any changes that are going to happen, including you working from home, the loss of a job, changes in finances, etc. Do not do this to raise their anxiety, but rather remind them you as the grown up have decisions to make to continue to support the family.
  • Explain to your kids the expectations each day that they have, i.e. chores, schoolwork, etc. Keep them structured with fun free time built in!
  • Be open and honest with them (but keep it age appropriate) about the global situation with Covid 19. Use this as an opportunity to teach them about global response, economy, health issues, sanitation of home and work area, etc.
  • If your child has a lot of anxiety, deal with it! Please do not let it go untreated. Again, support your child with their emotions, validate how they are feeling, remind them grown-ups are dealing with this situation, remind them they are safe at home, and if needed, seek out medical support with counseling and/or medication.
  • Many therapists and doctors are now offering temporary telehealth sessions for therapy and medical appointments. Reach out to those professionals for more support for your child.
  • Likely you as a parent or caregiver have high anxiety right now too, be careful to not show this to your kids. Keep this between you and other grown-ups in your life. Kids can often pick up on the anxiety from adults; show them your happiness, happy thoughts, etc!

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Hang in there! This is a crazy time but positive can come out of this situation. Enjoy the extra time you have with your family right now and teach them the board games we played growing up that they have never experienced! Find fun things at home to do, take time to do self-care, and most of all, just laugh and be silly with your kids!

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Jen Edwards, LMHC

Owner and Director of Beautiful Autism