Gelli’s first occupational therapist was Teacher Raina.
When Teacher Raina told us she was moving to Vietnam, my heart sank. She eased us into the idea of her moving. She explained her decision to move awhile before her scheduled date of departure. (It’s like she already knew that we might have some problems with change.) And when her date drew near, she began showing up for a tandem therapy session with Teacher Pat.
Teacher Pat is firm. But I believe all of Gelli’s therapists have to be firm. They set the groundwork for so much of what we do with Gelli on a daily basis. In fact, whenever we have a new yaya for Gelli start to work with us, I make them sit in on at least two sessions with each of Gelli’s therapists. Everyone has to be on the same page in taking care of her, setting limits, and use of language. We don’t want baby girl to be confused.
I have asked all of Gelli’s therapists to put together some helpful hints of ways to using the same techniques she uses during Gelli’s therapy sessions, in case some of my readers would like to try implementing these same therapies at home. After all, we know that our kids are always learning, and we can play with them in a way where we can make therapy fun too.
Teacher Pat has passed on quite a bit of information and I will try and break it up into a way that makes sense for us. I figured that I would break up what she wrote into two parts. We even talked about her contributing a monthly piece where she can explain what goals we are working on, and ways to reach those goals at home and through play.
As an occupational therapist, I help my clients by making it easier for them to perform their occupations. I teach my clients the skills needed to complete a task through practice and repetition. In this case, occupation does not only translate as work to be paid for or a job, rather, occupation is defined as the activities which are important for my clients. For children, primary occupations are play, school, and self-care activities (taking a bath, dressing up, eating, toileting, etc).
I have been working with Gelli for a long time now, and I am so proud of her achievements. I have seen her improve, and seeing that smile every Monday morning makes my day.
During our sessions we target the following skills needed for her occupation:
- Behavior (including attention span)
- Following instructions
- Persevering through challenging tasks without having tantrums
- Fine Motor Skills
- Cognition such as understanding, thinking, memory, naming concepts, and recallFine motor (hand) skills such as strengthening her fingers and manipulating and grasping objects of different sizes
Here are some easy tips and activities that I do with Gelli to improve the skills I’ve mentioned above that moms can do at home too:
- Limit distractions and clutter in the area.
- Play with one toy at a time. Have your child pack away if they want to play with another toy.
- Encourage your child to persevere and finish given activities. When tantrums occur, give needed assistance and at least make him do 1 or 2 more rounds before packing away.
- Be generous with simple praises such as high-fives, “good job,” “well done,” and even just a big smile to encourage them to do it again.
- Exchange free play with some games or activities that parents choose may it be obstacle course, flashcards, playing with puzzles, etc as long as there are things or steps that the child should follow or listen to.
(Side not from Michelle: As a teacher one of the most valuable lessons I learned was the fact that you can always empower a student, or in this case your child by giving her two choices. Of course, the two choices are what you would like them to choose anyway.)
Fine Motor (Hand) Skills
- Give activities that will use your child’s fingers and exercise the hand muscles. Scrolling or pressing the iPad does not count. Children should really hold and manipulate objects to strengthen those fingers (plus develop cognition, imagination, and play skills).
- Stringing beads.
- Bigger objects are easier to work with then progress to smaller objects when your child can hold bigger objects with ease.
- If you have a spare shoelace you can make a knot at the end, and buy bigger beads in the toy store to start.
- Make a necklace, bracelet, etc. that your child will find fun. With imagination, those beads can also transform to a car, train, or a snake.
- This also improves hand skills as well as hand-eye coordination as your child will have to look at the consecutive holes to lace the string.
(Side note from Michelle: I have found painted wooden beads complete with string and net sack from a vendor at the St. James Bazaar. She is known for Montessori based learning toys.)
- Toy stores offer lacing toys but you can make one at home by punching holes through a folder and having your child lace through it.
- I usually incorporate this in conjunction with a task where my students would have to open the clothespin to get a flashcard. You can do that at home too or just let them put it anywhere (sides of boxes, string, bedsheet, etc). Hint: Choose a clothespin that is not too hard to open so as your child can do it by themselves.
- Put together toys such as lego or pop-locks.
- Play Doh-You can purchase a ready made kit with items like a molder or cutter. But you can also just get one plastic container, have a jumbo pencil and use the pencil as a rolling pin. Make your child copy you by rolling, pressing, and pinching the Play Doh. You can also flatten the Play Doh and us it as a paper so that your child ill enjoy pre-writing tasks and this also strengthens pencil grip. Draw anything you want on it: lines, shapes, flower, etc. and make your child copy it or trace over it. You can also bury small coins in the Play Doh for your child to find as it involves pinching and pulling the clay.
(Side note from Teacher Pat: Can I just say I love using Play Doh for my students? I enjoy it as much as they do. There are so many things you can do with Play Doh!)
- Lessen choices first to make it easier for your child and to lessen visual distractions.
- Memory games. An easier activity that you can do is point to a picture that you want your child to get then have him run to the opposite side of the room and get the picture that you ask.
- Introduce names of objects, colors, and shapes as much as you can.
Check back tomorrow for part two of Teacher Pat’s Guest Post. She really put together a ton of information, tricks and tips for all of you. I figured breaking up the post into two parts would make it less overwhelming for all of us.