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. 

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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. 

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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

Autism Parenting: Active Vs. Reactive

 

Autism parenting: Active vs. Reactive

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As any parent, it is very easy to react to our children with anything they do. A child can get 100% on a test and we praise them; a child can spill a glass of milk and we scold them. When we have a child with behavior problems, such as autism, oppositional defiant disorder, or ADHD, our human nature tends to be more reactive towards their behavior.

When we are reactive towards behaviors, we end up with a lot of raised voices, scolding, and anger. Our children begin to take on these behaviors and react negatively towards anything, such as us asking them to do a chore or get off the iPad.

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I purpose to us parents that we change our thinking, our approach, and our parenting style with our children.  We need to be active in our approach. We need to look forward and predict what will happen.

Here are some suggestions on how to have active parenting:

  • Constantly look for small problems that you can prevent, such as milk being too close to the edge of the table or too close to their hand so they knock it over, excessive screen time in a given day, and overstimulating environments.
  • Instead of giving a negative remark about something, turn it to a positive remark. For example, if they take thirty minutes to get dressed, simply state, “Thanks for getting yourself dressed” and be done with the conversation. Eventually, and only infrequently, you can add, “I really appreciate it when you get dressed in five minutes!”.
  • If an action does happen that you need to react to, calmly in your head count to five first, then use calm words that are quiet and low. You will be surprised how your child reacts to your calm and low voice.stress4
  • Do not verbally unload on them when they are being difficult with behavior.Keep your words very minimal and again, only find the praise. For example, if your child is in a therapy session and had extremely defiant behaviors throughout the session, do not focus on the negative behaviors, but simply say, “It was great that you made it all 50 minutes of your session!”.
  • Be sure the first thing and the last thing your child hears in their day is positive thoughts from you.
  • parents love 1Say and show your child you love them. They may not say and show it back, but you are modeling how this is done. This might be writing a note in their lunch box, helping them make their bed, or just sitting with them and watching their favorite television show. Spend a minimum of 15 solid minutes each day with them where your phone is put away and you are engaged in their world.
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  • You need to model expected behaviors! If you are always being negative towards your child, they will be negative towards you. This also includes modeling expected behavior towards your partner/spouse.
  • Reward your child for positive things they accomplish. Rewards do not always need to be candy, toys, etc. They can be extra time playing a favorite video game (within moderation), staying up 10 minutes late for bedtime, or simply whatever it is that seems to catch their individual attention.

Yes, I know changing your way of parenting is difficult! And I understand people may look at you with scorn because you are not always focusing on the negative behaviors your child is doing. But do what is best for your family! Have an open mind when considering how to change your parenting style.

I encourage parents to sit down with someone who specializes in working with children with behavior problems to really get a good idea on how to approach and parent your child. This may be having a parent coaching session with your child’s counselor or another therapist.

Reach out with questions or thoughts! I enjoy hearing them!

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Jennifer Edwards, LMHC

www.BeautifulAutism.com

Jen@BeautifulAutism.com

 

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 in the New School Year

Autism in the New School Year

A friend of mine recently told me, “You said August and September were going to be difficult months; you were right.” The new school year is always a challenge for kids on the Spectrum. New schools, new teachers, new rules, new classmates, new schedules and routines. Generally it takes 6-8 weeks for kids to acclimate to the new year and feel settled.

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How Can I Make This Better?

Try to predict how your child is going to react to certain things; plan ahead. For example, if I know my son is having a change in his school schedule (such as an assembly), I need to explain the day before and the morning of to remind him and answer any questions. One nice thing about Autism is it is generally predictable once you know and understand your child. We are able to predict how our son will handle certain things and can then prepare accordingly.

Now certainly we are not always 100% accurate, and often he surprises us with handling things well, or on occasion not well. But being prepared and thinking ahead has made our lives SOO much easier.

Keep in Communication

Talk often to your child’s teachers and workers. I probably email my son’s Special Education team at least 3 times a week. I email his teacher a couple times a week. I want to know what is going on and how things are going for him. I am proactive in following through with his behavior at school and finding links to problems.

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Talk often to any therapists your child has, especially right before a session so they know what is going on and how to work with them.

And of course, talk with your kiddo! Find out what is bothering them. Ask them how YOU can help them. Talk about your expectations. Be supportive of your child and communicate daily your love!

The Challenging Behavior- DAILY!

Like I always say, keep calm. Fight the battles that are worth fighting. You will need to find the balance between what is worth focusing on and what behaviors you can ignore. This is not easy and often stressful. On the one hand, you do not want your child getting away with everything, but you want some peace in your home as well.

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Try to find the links between the challenging behaviors. Many times there are no links to be found; sometimes you find links in the most peculiar places! Use a lot of positive rewards. For example, when my son comes home with no sad faces on his behavior chart, he will get a “good boy treat” and often Mommy partakes in a “good mommy treat” too!

Use any close family and friends to help you! Find someone you can safely “vent” to and avoid venting in front of your child. We all need to be able to talk openly at times about our struggles. If you do not have that safe person, I encourage you to find someone quickly! You might want to have someone that you can talk with on the phone or face-to-face versus texting/email, etc. Pastors, social workers, and counselors are some examples of safe people if you do not have family or friends.

Final Thoughts

Hang in there! Hopefully by the holidays your child is more calm and confident in his/her situation. Then they get the nice holiday break and have to start all over again come January!

Use picture schedules or written schedules when necessary and helpful. Find other tools that will help your child succeed.

Remember, you are called to be parents/workers with this beautiful child, and you will become qualified!

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