Everything is different now. The way we work, the way we interact, the way we school our children, the way we deliver and receive health care services…it’s all changing. And these changes are not easy. So much on the internet is telling us, it’s a blessing! Slow down and enjoy! But what about our responsibilities? We can’t just drop those because the world told us we can’t go outside. We still need to pay our mortgages, we still need to buy groceries, our children still need to learn, and some children still have therapy goals. I’ve talked to many parents right now who are trying not to panic, but are worried about progress. You’ve been working so hard for so many years, spent so much time and money, and now it all comes to a screeching halt.
But did it? Yes, clinics and schools are closed. Therapy services are delivered through video instead of hands-on treatment. But really, what are our therapy goals? Sure, some children have postural goals, some children have handwriting goals, some children have social-emotional goals, some children have sensory integration goals. However, when we zoom out and look at all those goals, they have one major thing in common. It’s “allow my child to participate in their roles in a way that is joyful and engaging.”
And what is a child’s role? It’s the role of a son or daughter, the role of a brother or sister, the role of a student, the role of a friend. So maybe, this time gives us a chance to support our child’s roles in a way that we didn’t have before.
Talk to your child’s OT to make sure you understand the underlying foundational skills that your child struggles with, so you can allow your child to participate in your family life in a way that supports their goals and gives them a purposeful role. Keep those telehealth appointments, and use that time to really feel empowered.
Does that sound overwhelming? It might, but it should also feel freeing. Take a deep breath and know you can do this. Set yourself up for success. Be well fed and hydrated yourself, and expect that things will be different. But with no extra-curricular activities to get to, does it really matter if something takes a little longer? I’m going to say no.
Use Everyday Activities
We can use everyday activities to support their goals. When the main goal for therapy is participation in life, then why wouldn’t we use everyday activities? We can use these activities to target underlying skill deficits. But we need to be mindful about how hard some of these tasks can be! If you know what’s hard for your child, you can help support your child in doing them.
If your child has trouble with visual scanning, guide them to look across the entire room when cleaning her toys. If your child has postural instability, get on the floor with them and help them shift their weight while he’s Swiffering. If your child has sequencing challenges, break down a cooking task to two or three steps at a time. If your child struggles with fine motor skills, let her peel her own banana or orange.
This is where a conversation with your OT comes in. We can help guide you in how to help your child so that they can participate. Use telehealth sessions to learn how to support your child.
Let’s break down a few common household activities that can’t be put on hold just because everything else in the world stopped. Speaking as a parent, the hardest part about this is recognizing that things will be a little different. It will take longer. It will make a bigger mess. It will not be the way we usually do it. But take a deep breath in, and a long exhale out. Realize that the end goal of each activity is not to complete the activity perfectly. The goal is to allow your child to participate in the family in a way that is meaningful to them.
Now is the time to really think about your child within the context of the family. It’s time to slow down, and participate in daily life with them. It’s time to observe them without being dictated by busy schedules. Allow them to participate, and be mindful about how they participate. Know their struggles, but identify their strengths. Recognize and verbalize their value within your family dynamic. And let’s use this time to support their goal: the bigger, overarching goal of creating meaning in everyday life, so that when this is all over, they can go out into the world and flourish.
Therapists at Child's Play