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. 

                                                daily routine

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! 

     fun                                                

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  

Autism: Changing the Parenting Style

Autism: Changing the Parenting Style

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People often ask me what it is like to parent a child with Autism. I usually respond with something along the lines of I think I am more tired, more aware, and it is just different. They ask how it is different, but I usually cannot find the exact words to describe it. It is just different.

The rules of our home are different. If our son has a bad day at school, he usually does not get privileges taken away. If we had the “normal” rule and took privileges away, he would likely never have any privileges.

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We mold our son and constantly work on flexibility. This is something we were trained on by his therapists at Rocky Mountain Autism Center in Denver, CO. Specifically his level of flexibility with objects, activity, and people. As parents, we teach and train our children to do things; they learn the task and move forward. But we tell them how to do it, we instruct them, show them, and then they practice it and master it. For example, washing our hands. We teach this skill at home when they are young. Then our children can do it anywhere there is a sink and soap.

However, with many children that have Autism, this is not the case. We teach them at home- they only will wash their hands at home because that is how they were taught. We create the problem for them; in essence, we as parents have basically set up the situation and now they attribute washing hands at home in that bathroom with that soap.

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So how is our parenting style different? We teach our child to wash his hands in many different sinks. (Yes, this is an analogy) We drive a different way home somedays. We eat at the restaurant he does not like to eat at (when we are done, then he can get a happy meal somewhere). We do not reason with him, as this gives him authority which allows for him to control the situation (we give an inch, he takes a mile idea). And yes, when he is screaming and angry, we let him get it out, as reasoning with him using words only makes it worse.

Am I exhausted? Yes. You better believe when he is asleep, I am asleep. But ultimately we need to do what is best for him. We cannot let him stay in his bubble and become rigid and set in his ways. We cannot adhere to the typical American way of parenting, otherwise our son cannot be successful.

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Sometimes people will not understand; they cannot understand what they do not live and experience. We can explain and model, but it is not our job to make them see things our way. We use our support from friends and loved ones. We stay focused on what really matters, our son. We change what needs to be changed when it needs changing. It truly is a never ending job!

We were not called to be his parents because we were trained already; but we are becoming trained as we go because we were called to be his parents. And such a blessing it is and will forever be!

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Jen Edwards, LMHCA

Counselor and Behavior Therapist

Jen@BeautifulAutism.com

Autism and Terrible Behavior

The Terrible Behaviors

                My heart broke this week.  Why is he acting out so much?  My son’s behavior was horrible this week.  I cried, I got angry, I thought endlessly, and I prayed.  There seemed to be no common thread to this problem.  The school could not figure out why the physical aggression was so intense.  He was hitting other students for no reason and throwing chairs.  Really?  Is this MY son?

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Take a Breath… Be Calm

                We can analyze the situation all we want until we go stir crazy.  We can email teachers and demand answers.  We can talk to other people and get feedback.  The main thing to keep in mind: Our reaction can make or break the situation.  Overreaction can be devastating and under reaction can prolong the situation.  So where is that fine line of boundaries?

                It would be so nice if we had a manual that came with the delivery of our children.  Chapter 5: How to Handle Physical Aggression at 5 Years Old.  But we do not get manuals; we only get advice from past experiences.  So we take advice and sometimes it is great and often it is not applicable to the situation.  And we continue to search for the boundaries.

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                First, stay calm.  Look over the whole situation, take notes, and talk openly with trusted people who will listen and not offer advice right away.  Stay in constant communication with teachers, therapists, and other individuals working with your child.  Look for common threads in both positive and negative behaviors.  Talk with your child and try to get reasons and understanding from his/her perspective.  But I warn you, be gentle and patient while talking with your child; do not raise your voice or threaten with demands and punishment.  Try to understand your child while you listen to him/her.  Explain it is safe to open up to you.  Remember, you want answers- you are not there to get answers for punishment and discipline.  You want to help your child succeed!

Finding Answers, Then What?

                When you get some answers, even if they do not make sense, communicate with the other individuals involved with your child.  Together you can all begin to put the pieces together.  Continue to stay calm and understanding of your child.  Forgive your child and tell your child you still love him/her.  Follow through with communication.  Continue seeking knowledge and understanding while getting help for the problematic behaviors.

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Possible Reasons for Disruptive Behavior

                Here are some possible explanations for difficult behavior:

Too much stimulation

Changes in routine

Illness or pain

Not enough sleep

Confusion about something

Emotional imbalance

Unable to cope with anxiety

Disappointment

                Remember, every child is different.  Your child’s difficult behavior may be related to something not on this list.  These are just common ones I often see in Autism (and typically developing children too).

                Please share with me any other thoughts or things your child struggles with.  If you find yourself at a loss of what to do, seek help through myself or another professional.  Meanwhile, hang in there fellow parents and professionals!  I understand your struggles and frustrations.

                After all the emotional struggles this last week with my son, we took him to the dentist only to discover his six year molars were pushing through.  No wonder he has been deregulated!  So now we are working on helping him to communicate with us when he is in pain somewhere so we can help him. And afterwards, we had some “alternative medicine” at Cold Stone!

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                Sometimes it feels like we move one step forward and then suddenly two steps back with our children on the Spectrum.  Keep staying calm and searching for answers.  Overall you are moving in the forward direction in his/her life.  It may not always seem like it, but hang in there!

Contact Information

Jen Edwards

jen@voyagescounseling.com

720-258-6392