As parents, we play many roles. We are caregivers, professional snugglers, chauffers, coaches, cooks, maids, and cheerleaders. We are booger wipers, owie fixers, and toy locators. These are just a few of the hundreds of roles we play on a daily basis.
When you come to therapy you may feel overwhelmed. Now that your child is receiving therapy services you may feel emotionally that the world has been placed on your shoulders. Emotionally, you do have more on your plate, as well as new physical and time demands. Once your child starts therapy you are instantly handed yet another new role. This role may feel different, overwhelming, heavier, and foreign and that is okay. We are here to help. You now play the unofficial role of an occupational therapist, speech therapist, or physical therapist. Maybe you are a mixture of therapists? Maybe you play all three!
As one of the occupational therapists that work with your child, I know this is hard. It is so hard. As an infant, my own son received therapy services, and I was standing in your shoes during that period of time. Ironically my newly evolved role as an unofficial in-home therapist was my driver for going back to school to get my master’s in occupational therapy. Yet, just another example of our ever-evolving and changing roles.
When you leave our office PLEASE work with your child at home. Many of you do and we commend you for that. Some of your children we see for forty-five minutes per week. This is such a small time frame for us to really impact your child. If you don’t know what to do at home please ASK US! We love to give suggestions on activities and interventions that are fun and easy to implement. You ALONE will have the most significant impact on your child’s progress with therapy. Unfortunately, as therapists we don’t get to take the credit for that, we don’t even come close. I digress.
Therapy at home does not need to take hours. Our goal as your child’s therapists is to provide you with activities and interventions that you can implement into your daily schedule, not to drop an 8-hour block of therapy onto your already busy day.
For example, if your child is working on oral motor skills, do the exercises every other diaper change, counting while you do it (this lets your child know that there is an end to chewy tube or Infadent in their mouth while also working on counting). Kids truly are sponges and pick up on routines and counting quickly from a very young age.
If your child is working on sensory processing implement some heavy work into your routine. Have your child pull the wet heavy clothes from the washing machine and push them into the dryer. This is a triple win in my eyes, applying therapy, helping with chores, and the best part…they don’t even know they are helping out with your role as a maid!
If they are working on fine motor skills get a sheet of tiny stickers. Let them use that pincer grasp to peel the sticker off, work on finger isolation by making a game of smooshing the sticker down with their pointer finger onto a piece of scrap paper. If you aren’t there yet, start the unpeeling of the sticker and let them reach out to grasp it. These activities hopefully don’t sound overwhelming and maybe even sound…dare I say..fun? I said it.
Children love it when we as parents spend time with them. Look at the activities that you already do with fresh eyes. If you are cooking, incorporate them into helping with the meal. Food is an excellent way to address tactile defensiveness. In the comfort of your own home, they may feel even more comfortable getting their hands a little sticky while in the role of chef.
You can do this and you need to know that. My favorite mantra that I feel applies to parents and children alike is “YOU GOT THIS!” I can’t count how many times I have uttered that phrase to myself or said it while looking into my son’s eyes when he is struggling.
When parents work with their children at home we can see differences EACH WEEK in the progress they have made. If you need ideas on how to tailor your child’s therapy into your home life ask us. We can easily give you a few suggestions of things you can practice at home over the next week. Thank you for reading. I am now off to perform my role of a professional book reader, water retriever, and bed tucker inner.
Nicole DePron-Heber, MOT