by Danielle Carter, MS OTR/L

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As the news of the Corona Virus changes almost daily in Minnesota, it has clearly altered our homes and families in ways we could not have imagined it would even a few weeks ago. We are all hopefully well versed in our responsibility to “flatten the curve” and have drastically changed our exposure to others. Whether you are a family with a student who will now be staying home for at least two weeks, you are a parent who will be working from home, or continuing to go outside of the home to work, we are all feeling these significant changes in our daily lives and constantly reassessing what current recommendations we are facing.

As an Occupational Therapist, many of the children that I work with often crave routine, prefer predictability, and are very insightful about the emotions of others around them. Your children have been on my mind often in the past few days. I know that our kids are amazingly skilled at reading our emotions, feeling our stress, and detecting uncertainty. But children are also incredibly resilient. I hope that these changes in our world have the unexpected result of increased time to spend together as a family and that we can all find ways to find positivity during this truly unprecedented time. I also hope that our time together in occupational therapy sessions prior to these changes in our world have given you and your children tools to think both creative and flexibly. There is little doubt in my mind that ALL of the families I service have heard me teach and then later compliment “flexible thinkers”! It’s time for all of us to practice this amazing life skill.

As we move to a Telehealth model we will not physically be together over the next few weeks for OT sessions. There are, however, so many ways to add OT into your daily life. I hope you can notice times in the upcoming weeks when your kiddo was able to self-regulate and get their Engine Level to a just right state (Hint: You OT would LOVE to receive an email telling her about those moments!). Maybe you can use your own toys and games to work on right-left discrimination, hand strength, or visual scanning. In the meantime, here are just a few OT ideas for while you are staying home and social distancing J.

OT at home:

· Routine: If your child craves routine, make a picture schedule of your plan for the day. Sometimes endless unstructured time is stressful to kids. Use your iPad or phone to take pictures and post it a picture schedule in a place that the child knows what is coming next.

· Exercise: Move your bodies every day! We know exercise is great for so many reasons. It helps us regulate emotions, sweat out toxins, and can boost our immune system. It is OK to be outside as long as you are practicing the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing.

Roll down, run down the block, jump off the curb, go for a hike, get out your scooter, pogo stick, etc. Go use those proprioceptive and vestibular systems!

· Heavy work: Watch a movie under a weighted blanket, have your child carry the laundry basket, or use canned food to stack like blocks. Wheel barrel walking is another great heavy work activity.

· Board games: Be creative with what you have at home keeping OT goals in mind. Operation for hand strength and precision, Twister for body awareness and R-L discrimination, Don’t Break the Ice for wrist extension, Spot It for visual scanning.

· Baking: Scooping and measuring for wrist extension, pronation, and supination. Kneading dough for a tactile activity, mixing for core stability and distal mobility, following a recipe for visual scanning and sequencing.

· Yoga: for calming, mindfulness, body awareness, proprioception, vestibular function, and balance. Focus on breathing is a great way to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system and calm our bodies.

· Deep Pressure: Build a fort and crawl through tight spaces, wrap your child up like a burrito, give deep pressure hugs (with your own family of course! Social distancing rules apply J).

· Vision: Sodoku puzzles, mazes, dot to dot, Rush hour, Spot it.

· Sensory: This is a great time to get out the sensory bins. My current favorites are kinetic sand, orbeez, Easter grass, rice, water, shaving cream.

And finally, yet very importantly, parents, please take time for self-care. Reach out to a friend via phone or facetime, continue with your favorite hobby, take a walk, and connect with each other. I will be making sure to walk daily, continuing to practice yoga (though at home, not at the studio), reading, and knitting. We can model the importance of meaningful occupation to our children through our own example of self-care in times of uncertainty.

Whether our OT sessions are temporarily on hold or in session via Telehealth in the upcoming weeks, please remember that Kidspeak therapists are here to support you and your child in any ways that we safely can. Please don’t hesitate to ask for our tips and tricks. As always, we love our jobs and would rather be with you and yours doing what we love best. But for now…go forth and think flexibly!

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