Occupational Therapy at Home: Summer Strategies
by Ilene Goldkopf and Michelle Tobias
Summer time and the living is easy.... The days are longer, the weather is warmer and the kids are alternatively bored, berserk, and begging for attention. With a little planning, imagination, and a sense of adventure, you will be able to lessen their boredom, channel their energy and behavior and claim some meaningful and fun times for you and your child. As occupational therapists, we view the more relaxed, unhurried atmosphere of the summer months as an ideal time for children to practice emerging skills and master and refine current ones. There are no school buses to catch or homework to do and schedules are less rushed. For special needs children and their parents, all things are magnified, especially delays and time. The hurdles are higher, and take longer to reach. But the rewards, somehow are sweeter when you get there.
So how do you get started? For many special needs children deciding where to start may seem overwhelming. Try to keep it simple, pick 4 skills, with your child‘s input, if possible, to work on for that week or a two week period. Place this list in a prominent spot, where all family members can see it and be reminded of the week‘s work. Including quick sketches or pictures of the activity would be helpful for nonreaders. Try to use a chart or graph (with stickers or stars) to provide a visual display of progress. In addition to this list, use whatever opportunities naturally arise throughout the day, to reinforce other desired skills and behaviors in a non threatening, relaxed, and positive way.
Points to Keep in Mind When Working With Your Child
- Adopt a calm and positive attitude.
- Provide simple but consistent directions.
- Set up some form of routine early and stick to it.
- Try to give the separate time you do set aside to work with your child, no matter how short, a special name ( i.e., "Mommy & ... time"). Pairing it with another familiar activity or time also helps with consistency and gives the child who can not tell time yet, a time period to anticipate (i.e., after camp, before lunch).
- Keep your sense of humor when you‘re frustrated -- take a deep breath and laugh.
- When presenting a new task, give the child time to organize it his or her own way. It may not be how you would do it, but it could still work.
- Provide choices as much as possible.
- Be patient and try to have fun with your child.
Activities For Car Trips
- Ask your child to count the traffic lights or stop signs
- Draw a simple map of the route you will be taking and ask the child to follow along, Have him or her tell you what road comes next, which road you were on last, etc.
- Sing songs. There are excellent cassette tapes and CD‘s available to help you get started.
- There are "travel games" made with few or no parts to get lost, which are ideal to play during car trips. Ask your child to read a book to you or read road signs.
- Count the number of a specific color car.
(The authors are board-certified occupational therapists with combined experience of over thirty years. They currently service public schools and private clients throughout Central NJ. They are founding partners of Pocket Full of Therapy, Inc., a mail order toy company for children with special needs.)[Initially published in New Developments: Volume i, Number 1 - Summer, 1995]