Activities

21 Apr 2016

Encouraging Self-Advocacy in Young Children

In my (former) work as a school-based occupational therapist, I was saddened daily at the lack of self-advocacy in the majority of the children I was treating. I provide the following as a (fictionalized but typical) scenario where I help teach self-advocacy. 

The background information: Sam is 6 years old and in first grade. He spent two months in the NICU due to prematurity and gastrointestinal issues. He has mild motor developmental delays. He is small and adorable, and everyone feels protective of him. His parents, teachers, and peers are always quick to do things for him. He is cognitively intact, although his executive functions have been somewhat blunted through his early learned helplessness, the passivity that accompanies it, and the compensation by people in his environments. He is uncertain of his own abilities. He receives OT once a week through the school system. 

Scenario: Sam is sitting at the table. I hand him a piece of paper and tell him to “sign in” (which he does every week). I deliberately turn away and start rummaging through things, clearly busy. After about 30 seconds I turn around and he is still sitting there, and hasn’t signed in. 

“Sam, why didn’t you sign in?” I ask. 

“I didn’t have a pencil.” 

“Oh!” I say in over-exaggerated surprise. I dramatically retrieve a pencil for him “Next time, please tell me right away that you need a pencil!” 

We move on.

Next week, I repeat the scenario. I hand him his paper, tell him to sign in, and start to turn away. 

This time, he instantly says “I need a pencil!” 

I smile and super happily say “Oh! I forgot! Thanks so much for asking! Here you go!” 

We continue to work on similar examples each week. Often I am distracted or make lots of mistakes! Luckily, he helps me stay on track by letting me know what he needs. 

Sam, like many consumers, was unaware of his power to ask for what he needs. With guidance and education, he is learning how to be a self-advocate. 

Category: Activities, Occupational Therapy, Parents, Therapists | Comments: none

7 Jan 2015

Playful Pediatric Car Activities Using Road Clothes!

Found this silly picture with the dad wearing a road t-shirt and getting a “car massage” by his children. If you made a child some road pajamas (long-sleeved white shirt and pants and then drawn on with fabric Sharpies or the equivalent), you could do some great occupational therapy work.

Because this does involve “on-body” play, remember to be extremely careful about liability and consider only using this activity when parent is present, so that you can role model how to play at home, and ensure child is comfortable and able to express preferences.

Possible Activities:

PROPRIOCEPTION/TACTILE: Use cars of varying weights for lighter versus heavier touch as you narrate your path (…now we’re cruising along Right Leg Lane, looking for ducks…”) Super light touch: use your two fingers to “walk” as a pedestrian on the sidewalk Heavy touch: Use a heavy beanbag as a bull-dozer and “roll” it along its path

TACTILE: Make the path long and straight down both arms and both legs – if a child doesn’t normally like to put on long sleeves/pants, maybe he would if the car otherwise has to come to a screeching halt so soon on the journey.

STRENGTH: Make path circular around the legs and arms – make child lift up arms/legs for car to travel underneath “ooh your leg is soo heavy, my car is stuck, help!”

RANGE OF MOTION: The car can go down to the hand and and decide it wants to go to the other hand by having child raise both arms up 90 degrees and meeting at midline; the car may need other types of bridges from foot to hand and avoid the “body of water”

DIRECTIONS/ORIENTATION: Have child direct car or vice versa to go south/north/left/right/start at Right Arm Avenue etc

GRADATION OF MOVEMENTS: Have child practice on another child, or on your own long-sleeved shirt (or use washable marker on your arm only), of slow/fast/slower/faster

TURN-TAKING: Switch the car back and forth between the two children or you and child, potentially making a bridge, etc

BALANCE: Consider having the child stand up while the car drives!

More occupational therapy related pins here:

https://www.pinterest.com/funkist/ot-ideas


21 Nov 2014

Handmade creative clay pencil grips

To make a creative pencil grip, take the ink part out of a pen, roll it into a polymer oven-bake clay and bake it, following directions you can find online for safety [using appropriate clay, not burning your house down or experiencing toxic fumes by baking it too long, etc]. Here’s a tutorial. Here’s another. Those tutorials show a more covered pen, but I think the grip is better off being wound around the pen like in my pictures below. At least the tutorials give you the basics. I haven’t tried it myself. Use your own judgment as to whether it’s a safe and appropriate activity and method.


7 Jan 2014

OT Lego Strategies for Children

Dear OT,

My preschooler, John, loves playing with Legos. Unfortunately he gets frustrated because his hands are weak and his fine motor skills aren’t as good as his classmates. Any ideas? – Jane

Hi Jane,
Legos are great for working on many developmentally appropriate skills. Some strategies you can teach your child to make Lego play a little easier include:

LEGO STRATEGIES (Click link to download as PDF) Lego strategies
(Note: Consider practicing on larger Legos first!)

PLACE LEGOS LOWER AND CLOSER TO BODY

Place the legos closer to his body and make sure they are lower than his arms. He can stand up and push down on the Legos for more strength (thanks to the physics of levers – this is true for staplers and similar items as well).  That way his entire body is being used for the interlocking of the bricks, compensating for his hand weakness.

USE PALM, NOT FINGERS, TO FULLY INTERLOCK

For the bigger pieces, if interlocking bricks are in correct position, just not fully pushed together, first move the item closer and lower as noted above, then use the flattened palm of hand to press them down firmly. The palm has more force/easier than the fingers. If a tower, it may need to be stabilized with the other hand to prevent tipping over.

TEMPORARILY MOVE UNSTABLE AREAS TO A STABLE AREA TO ADD ON MORE PIECES
If there is empty space beneath part of a Lego due to the design, it can get difficult/frustrating to add onto that Lego area. Temporarily remove that part of the design so that it’s fully on the flat/stable surface. Add on the necessary extra pieces. Then place the entire part back where it belongs.

Jane, I hope this helps. I imagine there are many sites on the Internet that can be explored to find even more ideas. Good luck with John! Therapeutically yours, OT 🙂

PS: There are plenty of OT skills that can be worked on using Legos! Fine motor, visual motor, problem-solving, social skills…let me know if you want more information!

 


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