Self-regulation is the ability to manage and control one's own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It is an essential skill that helps children function well in social, academic, and daily life situations. Children who struggle with self-regulation may have difficulty focusing, controlling impulses, and interacting with others. Fortunately, there are strategies parents can use to help their children develop self-regulation skills.
What is Self-Regulation?
Self-regulation is the ability to manage one's own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in a way that promotes positive outcomes. It involves a range of skills, including:
Emotional regulation: The ability to recognize, understand, and manage one's own emotions.
Behavioral regulation: The ability to control one's actions and behaviors in response to different situations.
Cognitive regulation: The ability to focus attention, plan, and problem-solve.
Why is Self-Regulation Important for Children?
Self-regulation is an essential skill for children to develop, as it helps them:
Succeed academically: Children who have good self-regulation skills are better able to focus and concentrate in school, which can improve their academic performance.
Develop social skills: Children who can regulate their emotions and behaviors are more likely to form positive relationships with others and be successful in social situations.
Manage stress: Children who can regulate their emotions and behaviors are better able to cope with stress and anxiety.
Build resilience: Children who can regulate their emotions and behaviors are better able to bounce back from challenges and setbacks.
Strategies for Helping Children Develop Self-Regulation Skills
Here are some strategies parents can use to help their children develop self-regulation skills:
Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Parents can help their children practice mindfulness by encouraging them to focus on their breathing or other sensory experiences, such as the sights and sounds around them.
Provide Opportunities for Physical Activity: Physical activity can help children regulate their emotions and behaviors by providing an outlet for excess energy and helping them relax. Parents can encourage their children to engage in physical activities they enjoy, such as sports, dancing, or yoga.
Teach Coping Strategies: Coping strategies can help children manage their emotions and behaviors in response to stressors. Parents can help their children identify coping strategies that work for them, such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, or taking a break.
Establish Routines: Routines can help children feel more in control of their environment and provide a sense of predictability. Parents can establish consistent routines for activities such as bedtime, homework, and meals.
Set Clear Expectations: Children need clear expectations and boundaries to help them regulate their behavior. Parents can establish clear rules and consequences for behavior, and communicate them clearly to their children.
Use Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement can encourage children to repeat positive behaviors. Parents can praise their children for demonstrating good self-regulation skills, such as managing their emotions or behaviors in challenging situations.
Self-regulation is an essential skill for children to develop, and parents can play a critical role in helping their children develop these skills. By practicing mindfulness, providing opportunities for physical activity, teaching coping strategies, establishing routines, setting clear expectations, and using positive reinforcement, parents can help their children thrive and succeed.
Every child is unique, possessing their own set of strengths, challenges, and developmental trajectories. Some children, however, fall under the neurodiverse spectrum, which encompasses a wide range of neurological differences such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. As society progresses, it becomes increasingly important to understand, appreciate, and embrace neurodiversity, creating an inclusive and supportive environment for all children. In this blog, we will explore the concept of neurodiversity in children and highlight the importance of Child's Play Therapy Services PC in promoting their well-being and overall development.
Neurodiversity challenges the conventional notion of "normality" by recognizing that neurological differences are natural variations of the human brain. Each child's neurodiverse condition presents unique characteristics, strengths, and challenges, shaping their perception, behavior, and interactions with the world. It is crucial to approach neurodiversity with empathy, respect, and acceptance, fostering an environment that encourages the flourishing of all children.
Child's Play Therapy Services PC stands as a guiding light in advocating for neurodiverse children, acknowledging their needs and empowering them to reach their full potential. Through a wide range of therapeutic interventions, Child's Play Therapy Services PC offers tailored support that recognizes the individuality of each child, creating a safe and nurturing space for growth and development.
Creating Individualized Therapy Plans:
Child's Play Therapy Services PC recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy. Their skilled therapists work closely with each child and their families to develop individualized therapy plans that address specific strengths, challenges, and goals. By tailoring interventions to the unique needs of neurodiverse children, therapists can promote progress in areas such as communication, social skills, sensory integration, and emotional regulation.
Promoting Sensory Integration:
Many neurodiverse children experience sensory processing differences, where they may be either over- or under-sensitive to sensory stimuli. Child's Play Therapy Services PC utilizes sensory integration techniques to help children develop strategies for processing and responding to sensory information effectively. This approach can enhance their ability to engage with the world, improve attention and focus, and reduce anxiety or sensory overload.
Encouraging Social Skills Development:
Building social skills is essential for the well-being and future success of neurodiverse children. Child's Play Therapy Services PC social skills development through play therapy, group activities, and structured interventions. By creating opportunities for children to engage in meaningful interactions and practice social communication, they can develop self-confidence, empathy, and the ability to establish positive relationships.
Strengthening Emotional Regulation:
Children on the neurodiverse spectrum often struggle with emotional regulation. Child's Play Therapy Services PC equips children with strategies and techniques to identify and manage their emotions effectively. Therapists provide a supportive environment where children can explore their feelings, learn coping mechanisms, and develop resilience, enabling them to navigate emotional challenges with confidence.
Collaborating with Families and Schools:
Child's Play Therapy Services PC recognizes the importance of collaboration between therapists, families, and educators. By fostering open communication and providing resources, strategies, and guidance, they empower parents and schools to support neurodiverse children in their everyday lives. This collaboration ensures that the child receives consistent support and reinforcement across various environments, promoting holistic development.
Neurodiverse children possess immense potential, and by embracing their uniqueness, we can create a world that celebrates diversity and inclusion. Child's Play Therapy Services PC plays a vital role in nurturing the growth and development of neurodiverse children. Through their individualized therapy plans,
focus on sensory integration, social skills development, emotional regulation, and collaborative approach, they empower children to thrive and lead fulfilling lives. By championing neurodiversity, we lay the foundation for a more inclusive society, where every child's unique abilities and talents are cherished and celebrated.
We want to express our gratitude to everyone who joined us for our recent parent educational night in partnership with SEED Lafayette, where we delved into the fascinating world of Gestalt Language Processing (GLP) - Explaining Echolalia.
We're honored that the guest presenter was our very own Jordyn Strombak, M.A., CCC-SLP. Jordan shared a wealth of valuable information, real-life examples, and practical strategies for working with children who experience Gestalt language processing challenges. We're thrilled to announce that we're making Jordyn's full presentation and slide deck available for all to view and learn from.
Check it out today and discover new ways to support your child's language development journey!
Occupational therapy (OT) is a vital component of healthcare for children, as it can help them to develop important skills, overcome challenges, and reach their full potential. In honor of Occupational Therapy Month, let's take a closer look at why OT is so important for kids.
First, it's important to understand what OT is and what it entails. Occupational therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals of all ages perform daily tasks and activities. For children, these tasks may include things like dressing, eating, and playing with toys. Occupational therapists work with children to develop the skills and abilities they need to participate in these activities independently and successfully.
There are many reasons why children may benefit from occupational therapy. Some children have physical disabilities that make it difficult for them to perform certain tasks, while others may have developmental delays or sensory issues that impact their ability to learn and grow. Occupational therapists are trained to evaluate each child's individual needs and create customized treatment plans that address their unique challenges.
One of the most important aspects of occupational therapy for children is that it can help them to develop the skills they need to succeed in school and beyond. For example, occupational therapists can work with children to improve their fine motor skills, which are essential for writing, drawing, and using scissors. They can also help children develop the cognitive skills they need to process information, solve problems, and think critically.
In addition to improving physical and cognitive skills, occupational therapy can also help children to develop important social and emotional skills. For example, children who struggle with anxiety or behavioral issues may benefit from occupational therapy that focuses on mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Occupational therapists can also help children develop social skills like communication, cooperation, and empathy.
Ultimately, occupational therapy can help children to become more independent, confident, and successful in all aspects of their lives. If you have a child who is struggling with physical or developmental challenges, or if you simply want to help your child reach their full potential, consider working with an occupational therapist. With the right guidance and support, your child can develop the skills they need to thrive.
Need more support? Schedule an appointment with our office today!
Lockdowns lasted so long, especially here in San Francisco. It’s been years without normal school routines or regular family outings.
And as everyone digs out from the pandemic experience, parents are beginning to wonder how to get development and education back on track — ASAP.
If you’re concerned as a parent about the long-term impact, that’s justified. Although research is just beginning, we’re already seeing evidence of the impact of these pandemic years on child development. A recent study by McKinsey and Company found that children in K-5 were an average of 5 months behind in academics.
We’re seeing a big push to “catch kids up“ on their education. But as a parent, you need to think beyond just academics.
The truth is, catching kids up means backing up even further to include essential developmental skills that need to be addressed alongside academics.
Development builds on itself. So it’s wrong to assume kids can move forward academically if foundational developmental skills aren’t fully established.
Early development is based on interactions, experiences, and play. Lockdowns during the pandemic meant two things. First, families didn’t have the same access to activities and experiences. Second, all the juggling of work, school, and family life meant parents had less one-on-one time for interactions and play.
As developmental specialists, we know kids missed the practice and experiences that are key for development across the board. We need to make sure we’re adjusting expectations to account for this.
Otherwise, parents, teachers, and students will all grow frustrated when academics continue to be a challenge. Especially for kids who already struggle and feel farther behind peers developmentally during the pandemic.
So today we’re going to share with you some basics of how the pandemic impacted the cognitive, speech, physical, and social-emotional development of kids.
The good news is — kids are wired to learn! By understanding their development, you’ll be better prepared to guide your child through this time of readjustment.
Cognitive Skills That Support Thinking and Learning
From birth through the teenage years, the brain is busy building connections. These connections happen as a result of experiences, interactions, and practice. As connections grow, so does the ability for more complex thinking, language, and problem-solving.
We’re already seeing that children born during the pandemic show delays in verbal and non-verbal cognitive skills. This is attributed to the emotional and situational environment during the early years. Babies just didn’t get the typical variety in experiences for interactions.
And the impact on cognitive skills is seen in older kids too. They have had fewer play opportunities, fewer social interactions, increased stress, disrupted routines, and educational losses due to the pandemic.
This translated to potential difficulty with:
As kids return to school, time needs to be spent introducing or re-introducing routine, organization, following directions and building up attention. Keeping in mind, a variety of fun, engaging activities promote brain development and key connections.
Language Acquisition and Development
Decreased social interactions and mask wear impacted language and communication development in young children.
Speech and language development is important during the early years. This includes understanding words, making sounds (articulation), and expanding the number of words a child is able to use when communicating.
Kids develop essential language skills through interactions with others. The more the better. A consequence of lockdowns is that babies and children missed language-rich experiences with teachers, extended family, and peers.
Additionally, mask wear impacted language development because covering the mouth made it more difficult to hear, read lips, or read facial expressions. While these cues are important for all children, the impact of mask-wear was especially challenging for children with hearing loss, articulation challenges, and auditory processing challenges.
Parents, educators, and healthcare professionals need to be more diligent in screening for speech delays and providing activities that encourage speech development. When in doubt, seek out a speech and language therapist for an in-depth evaluation.
Developing the Strength and Coordination for Learning
It’s easy to forget about the importance of coordination and strength for learning and schoolwork.
Here’s what you need to consider. During the pandemic, kids spent more time in front of screens and less time in full-body play. However play — whether that’s outside, inside, or during PE — is an essential part of development for babies and school-age children.
What does PE and playing outside have to do with learning? Motor skill development impacts a variety of other skills your child needs to learn:
Kids missed the time on the playground to build hand strength by swinging from the monkey bars. And preschool schoolwork was done on a computer instead of holding a crayon.
So now you can’t hand your child a pencil and expect them to write. And you can’t send them to school and expect them to sit at a desk all day. So if your child is struggling with school work, consider how you might incorporate more physical play into their day whether that’s a park or coming up with activities at home.
Social & Emotional Essentials
Out of all the skills, the pandemic especially impacted the social and emotional skill development of children.
In one study looking at parent concerns during the pandemic, parents reported they saw increased tantrums, anxiety, clinginess, boredom, and under-stimulation in their children. With the return to more group activities, therapists and teachers are now seeing the same social and emotional challenges as kids.
Which makes sense.
Social and emotional skills are honed during interactions with others. While parents play a key role in this, peer play is essential for giving kids practice in terms of interacting with others, responding to disappointment, and the give-and-take of relationships.
During the pandemic, children mostly interacted with direct family members. Even attentive parents were faced with extra stress, responsibilities, and scheduling demands. Playdates were suspended and children talked through computer screens. This led to more difficulty using relationships to co-regulate.
Additionally, our brain, through a process called neuroception, takes in cues from the environment to determine if we are safe or if we are in danger. If the brain determines the cues indicate danger, old survival circuits in the brain are activated to ensure quite simply that we survive through fight, flight, freeze, and even feigning death. Have you felt in survival mode for a better part of the last two years?
Since March of 202o our brains have been flooded with cues of danger, which has led to chronic activation of our oldest survival systems. This explains the pervasive self regulation challenges we are seeing in adults and children alike. For some this feels like mobilization where our system is activated into fight and flight responses. This can lead to inattentiveness, irritability, rigidity, difficulty with transitions, and meltdowns. For others, this can lead to shut down responses. This can look like decreased energy, and motivation, disconnection from one's body, a feeling of being slowed down or a feeling of numbness.
As kids return to normal activities, teaching self-regulation and social skills should be a priority. Especially since self-regulation has been identified as a key component of educational success.
Parents can help children with this by providing guided activities to practice self-regulation. Additionally, for those where the old survival circuits seem to be chronically activated, there is a profoundly impactful therapeutic program available, The Safe and Sound Protocol, created by Stephen Porges, MD. This program works directly on supporting emotional regulation, grounding the body for safety, while also decreasing auditory sensitivity. Results from two clinical trials in children with Autism have demonstrated statistically significant improvements in emotional control, behavioral organization, hearing sensitivity and listening.
You can also start resuming playdates and guide your child through steps of self-regulation or what it means to be a good friend. Social interactions can serve the purpose of providing opportunities for co-regulation, and restoring a sense of safety, community and belonging.
These are not skills that happen overnight but take practice for kids to learn. Especially kids who already struggle emotionally or socially.
Making Up for Lost Experiences
We can’t expect kids to just go on as if nothing happened. We’ve got to help them catch up on these foundational skills but without adding unneeded stress or expectations.
While it’s impossible to make up for what’s been missed, the great thing about kids is how much potential they have for learning and growth.
We just need to be aware that they might need extra time to practice to regain skills that might have been put on hold.
And if you’re concerned about your child’s development, get them seen and evaluated earlier rather than later.
Our team of occupational and speech therapists is committed to providing a variety of services to help your child.
We are also providers of the Safe and Sound Protocol.
Christina Gallo, MS, OTR/L
Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Infant Mental Health Specialist
As school gets into gear, the reality of a school year online is really starting to hit. As a parent, you are facing the impossible job of balancing work, home, and education. Not to mention, you might be feeling a little underprepared for this new role based on the simple fact, you most likely don’t have any sort of background in education.
And if your child has learning differences or disability, you count on educational professionals to provide their expert guidance to build skills on a daily basis. Your child might not easily “catch-up” like other kids
Quite honestly, many kids with learning challenges or attention problems can’t simply be set up with a computer and expected to navigate learning independently. There’s more to school than just the lessons from the teachers.
School provides valuable childhood experiences for social interaction, movement, emotional regulation, and daily routine.
But there are many things you CAN do to infuse these missing elements to your child’s at home learning experience. And, if nothing else, this year gives you the unique opportunity to customize elements of your child’s learning experience, taking in account your child specific needs and interests.
And you’re not alone. Don’t forget you still have teachers and staff from school. Count on them to provide guidance for the curriculum.
Your job is to fill in some of the other pieces: emotional regulation, structure, environment, movement, and social opportunities to give your child a great online school experience.
So here are some ideas to get you started. Gather some hints, and adapt for your child.
Use Your Regulation StrategiesThe traditional school day provides a lot of opportunities to practice self-regulation: taking turns, waiting in line, and dealing with frustration. Recognize your child’s need for the practice of self-regulation and look for ways you can provide support.
Some Quick Pointers:
Use regulation strategies for yourself to maintain your own calm. You are taking on a big challenge. You are prone to have some big emotions along the way.
It’s important to remember that by acknowledging your own feelings and experience, you are better able to support your child. So, find ways to take care of yourself. Whether that is going for a walk, doing some yoga, or carving out some alone time.
Create an Environment for LearningNot everyone has the space in their home for a dedicated learning zone. And that’s ok.
But find ways to set up a space for learning whether it's the kitchen table or a desk. Maybe it’s as simple as bringing certain supplies such as a pencil box or computer in a consistent place at the start of learning time.
Try to find ways to limit distractions such as using headphones or making dividers so your child isn’t distracted by other things going on. Provide your child with fidgets that he can use to help him sustain attention, such as gum, a koosh ball, a stress ball, a rubber band.
Did you know that 75% of the brain is water! Give your child a water bottle at the start of the day. Kids need water to think.
And keep in mind, your child needs variety. So think of how you might use your space flexibly to allow for position changes and different views throughout the school day. Maybe your child watches their computer-based lessons at the table and then sits on a bean bag to do their reading.
Visual SchedulesVisual schedules can be a powerful tool to keep everyone on track. They keep focus on the current tasks and show what’s coming next. Consider whether your child more easily understands words or images. Then, use pictures or words to show what needs to be done for the day.
You can get as fancy as a chart purchased from online, pre-printed clip art or as informal as self-drawn pictures on a whiteboard. Then, let your child mark off items as they go through the day.
It’s also helpful to add a visual timer where your child can see how long they are expected to play or work on their own. For younger children, timers with a visual element can help them understand how long something is supposed to last.
For instance, Amazon carries visual timers that look like a kitchen timer but the red indicates how much time is left. The Learning Resource Time tracker offers a timer that goes from green to yellow, to red as time counts down. Even simple sand drop timers can show how much time is left for an activity.
Develop a Healthy Routine
Set up a realistic schedule that everyone can keep. Children do well with predictability but it’s also important to leave some room for flexibility based on emotional needs and the realities of daily life.
Start off the week by spending some time planning.Then you have an overall grasp of what’s going on. From there you will know which tasks NEED to get done and where you can be flexible.
One of the most powerful elements of a healthy schedule is a consistent sleep and wake up time. Set specific times for going to bed, waking up, and starting schoolwork. It might feel hard at the beginning but you will thank yourself later when this foundational schedule makes everything else run more smoothly.
A healthy diet is also important as nutritious food can make a big difference in mood and energy. It's easy to fall into unhealthy eating patterns of snacking or convenience food when everyone is home so much of the time. High carbohydrate meals will lead to an insulin crash, and fatigue. Food dyes are associated with hyperactivity. Try to stick to simple whole foods.
Think of creative ways to include your child in meal planning and meal prep. This will help you get the task completed and encourage some important skills. Cooking is not only an important life skill but also helps with regulation, following directions, math, and science.
Movement Breaks Throughout the DayLittle bodies were made to move, not sit all the time. And when you think about it, movement is actually a big part of a typical school day. Teachers provide movement breaks between lessons, children go to recess, walk to different rooms for lunch or PE, or even walk across the room to get a book.
Movement increases blood flow to the brain, helps improve attention, and decreases stress. So, if you child learns better when they aren’t expected to sit still all the time, this school year provide a great way to allow more movement.
You might find it helpful to structure by planning in movement breaks about every 45 minutes. These could be getting up to clean, adding a stretch, or giving time for a planned movement-based activity. Maybe keep a tally sheet of how many laps your kiddo can do around the house!
Think about how you can add a movement component to whatever you are learning about. If you’re learning about plants, take five minutes and pretend you are a plant growing. If you’re learning about numbers, make a list of movements (jump, flap arms, spin, clap) and roll a dice to find out how many you will do.
And not everything needs to be a big event. You can even lead your child in a quick stretch or brief dance party. Everyone will feel more focused and ready to do the next task after moving around a little bit.
Find Supports Outside the Home
Seek out safe programming that will support your online schooling with your child. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Find things that will lift you up as a parent and will be meaningful for your child. It’s going to be especially important to find safe ways for social interaction or different scenery.
Connect with other parents who are doing the same thing to get support and suggestions. You might even find some great outdoor locations to spend time together.
And don’t forget about the support being offered at Child’s Play Therapy Services for families in the Bay Area. We grasp the importance of providing safe ways to get children the experiences and skill practice they continue to crave.
We are committed to finding ways to support parents in the areas that might be missing with online schooling. From emotional regulation, educational therapy, outdoor groups, and ongoing therapy, we’re here during your journey in online schooling.
Foster a Positive Attitude and Have Some Fun!Online school might not have been your plan for this year, but it can still be a positive experience. Celebrate your child’s wins along the way (and your own). Find your child’s favorite ways to learn and use it a lot!
And most of all, give yourself room to be authentic – honoring the hard parts and cherishing the good. If nothing else, this year is sure to be memorable.
We’d love to stay in touch and continue to provide you with supports during this year.
Sign up for our email list where we will continue to provide parenting tips and ideas focused on supporting parents of children with disabilities and learning differences.
Christina Gallo, MS OTR/L
Child’s Play Therapy Services
It’s #TuesdayToolbox where we talk about one trick to keep in your toolbox to support your child!
Today’s Toolbox Trick is the Zones of Regulation.
“The Zones” is a conceptual framework that helps students to gain skills in the area of self-regulation and self-control.
The lessons and activities are designed to help the students recognize when they are in the different zones as well as learn how to use strategies to change or stay in the zone they are in.
The Zones categorizes states of alertness and emotions into four colored zones (Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red) and prepares students to use strategies or tools to help them move between zones.
It is a very effective, widely-used framework (both teachers and therapists use it!) that supports your child.
The best way to start?
Model it for your child.
When you’re in traffic and feeling frustrated, let them know you’re in the Yellow Zone. After you yell at your kids, apologize to them and say you were in the Red Zone, which is why you went to your room to cool off so you could get back to Green. When you’re tired, tell them you’re feeling Blue Zone.
Kids learn so much just by observing. So model it for them, and they will begin to conceptualize it!
And stay tuned for a Zones of Regulation announcement coming in the next few days!
If your child has dyslexia or other learning disability, educational therapy could be the answer you’ve been seeking and didn’t even know existed. You might be asking, “What’s educational therapy anyway?”
Think for a moment about the experience of being a child who struggles in school. Everyone else seems to just understand the material being taught. But for some reason, it’s just not that simple for you. Silly songs that seem funny to the other kids in the class, make no sense to you.
You would probably start really disliking school, hide the fact that you don’t get it, or even just avoid those challenging school assignments altogether.
How much of a difference would it make if someone just taught like your brain worked?
Showed you how to make sense of what everyone is learning so that you could learn too.
How much more enjoyable would school be?
This is the experience of children with dyslexia. The power to learn how to learn is the reason educational therapy is such a valuable tool for children who learn and think differently.
Never Heard of Educational Therapy? You’re Not Alone, Here’s the Basics.
Educational therapy focuses on teaching skills for thinking and learning. Making it a powerful resource for children whose brains just work differently for one reason or another.
Learning is actually a complex combination of small skills:
The list goes on!
Here’s the thing: Schools don’t always have the same specialized knowledge in learning styles or the array of alternate ways to teach. They simply don’t have the same tools, time, or individualized services that can be provided by an educational therapist.
And, educational therapy is more than traditional tutoring. Rather than just focusing on learning specific content, educational therapy focuses on teaching the process behind learning so that the skills can be used across school topics and grades.
And ed therapy not just for children with identified learning disabilities. Many children just learn differently and benefit from educational therapy.
For instance, children with:
The framework of educational therapy is especially valuable for children with dyslexia. So keep reading to better understand the tools of educational therapy through the lens of dyslexia.
How does dyslexia impact learning ability?
Dyslexia is a learning disability related to how information is processed in the brain. These are smart kids who just have brains that process information differently. Dyslexia impacts a variety of skills related to reading, writing, spelling, and math.
At its most basic level, dyslexia makes it more difficult to process written words and numbers. When reading to themselves, those with dyslexia can have difficulty reading fluently and comprehending what is read. Basically, it’s hard to know what you are reading when it takes so much effort to figure out each word.
Dyslexia can also impact other areas such as memory and the ability to deal with stress. Plus, challenges with learning can also lead to anxiety and frustration around reading and schoolwork.
Much of the difficulty with learning is related to trouble with matching letters to sounds and being able to decode words. Decoding words is an early reading skill where unfamiliar words are sounded out. Children decode unknown words by recognizing the relationship between letters and sounds.
Even before students learn to decode words, they need the skill of phonological awareness. This is a big word to describe a basic recognition of sounds, patterns, and syllables. Think of all the preschool songs where you clap out syllables, rhyme, or make up silly words by changing the sound of the word.
But the good news is... children with dyslexia are smart and can learn, especially when given strategies that match the way their brain processes information. In fact, studies using brain scans have shown improvements in the brain areas related to dyslexia when using targeted teaching strategies1.
So this is where educational therapy can really make a difference. By teaching correctly, children with dyslexia get a chance to learn in the way their brain works best.
Let’s take a look at what that involves.
How does educational therapy help dyslexia?
Samantha Martinez, Educational Therapist at Child’s Play Therapy Services in East Bay, CA describes some of the methods she uses when working with children with dyslexia. She focuses on using Linda Mood-Bell’s program Seeing Stars to work on skills related to hearing and seeing sounds in words.
Using the different senses to learn, children get to see, touch, smell, hear, and move to learn about a concept.
According to Martinez, “Multi-sensory learning helps to bring the words to life to help children with dyslexia learn in a different way. These methods focus less on the printed text and more on finding other methods to learn the patterns and parts of words.”
It’s a way of learning that focuses on physical movement and other forms of visual processing to help your child with dyslexia learn.
This skill is focusing on the present by using breathing strategies and calming the mind and body.
According to Martinez, “I start each session working on mindfulness. It’s important to start with mindfulness to prepare your child for learning and because it’s an easier skill to learn when you’re not stressed.”
This is a powerful tool for children with dyslexia because it can get them recentered and able to work through the tough spots. Because having a learning disability can be frustrating, children with learning disabilities are more likely to deal with anxiety both in childhood and throughout their life.
Use of Games
Children love learning through games. Makes sense, right? It’s just more fun! But there is a very practical element to using games when working with children with dyslexia. It gives great opportunities to practice sequencing and processing information visually. It also gets the brain warmed up for processing visual information faster and more automatically.
Educational Therapy Celebrates the Unique Way Each Child Learns
In the end, each child with dyslexia learns in their own way. Educational therapy offers the opportunity to trial different ways of learning – finding what works best for your child. And then provides practice to give your child the confidence to use these tools in the classroom, across subjects and for years to come.
And, this isn’t only true for children with dyslexia. The tools for learning provided by educational therapy can help children with many different types of learning and organization challenges.
Wondering if educational therapy might be right for your child?
Call to schedule a free 15-minute consult with Samantha Martinez at Child’s Play Therapy Services in the Bay Area, CA.
Huber, E., Donnelly, P.M., Rokem, A. et al. Rapid and widespread white matter plasticity during an intensive reading intervention. Nat Commun 9, 2260 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04627-5
What is Educational Therapy?
What is Dyslexia?
Parent Resource: What is Self Regulation? How can I support the development of this skill in my child?
Take a minute to imagine you’re a kid during this strange time.
From the perspective of a child, you might think:
I suddenly stopped going to school and all my activities changed. My parents started helping me with school and I got to stay home and do lots of fun activities. But, I’m still a little confused...
Understanding Fear and Security During Change
Parenting has always been challenging but it seems a little extra complex now. How do you help your children navigate these changes? This uncertainty. This fear. It’s a big undertaking.
But, amazing parents take this encouragement: There are many ways to build safety and security – even in times of change.
Children thrive when they feel safe and secure. When they know boundaries and expectations. This provides a foundation for exploration and creativity. Many parents have done an outstanding job of supporting their children this year by following flexible routines, creating space for emotion, and finding fun things to do at home. Children will have memories of spending days in pajamas, building forts, and spending more time as a family.
But the truth is, COVID has introduced a new situation of uncertainty. Routines changed suddenly and drastically. And even with the ending of shelter in place restrictions, things are still different.
Social distancing and mask-wearing represent changes to accepted social norms to allow people to function safely in a world where Coronavirus still exists. It can feel like a big task to explain social distancing and COVID with your children – without causing fear.
So keep reading to learn some tips and how to help your child adjust to current change. And, how the staff at Child’s Play Therapy Services will provide support.
Tools for Responsive Parenting Following Shelter in Place
Change doesn’t need to be bad or scary. You just need to take steps to help your children process and adjust. Certainly, school in the fall will look different. Taking small steps now will ultimately help prepare children and reduce overwhelm from altered routines.
Children with Difficulty Seeing People Wearing Face Masks
Some children might have a difficult time seeing people wearing masks for a number of reasons:
To work on seeing people wearing masks, try putting a mask on in front of your child so they see you wearing one. And even try to make it a fun game.
Before going out, Talk about how people will be wearing face masks. And explain doing this helps everyone stay healthy. You might also want to discuss that different people make different decisions in case your child sees someone not wearing a mask.
You can also start to show your child pictures or videos of people wearing masks so they can start to see it as a normal thing. Here are some pictures of the staff at Child’s Play Therapy in face masks. Show your child and help them prepare for their next therapy session
We’re wearing face masks during all our clinic sessions for safety, but it also provides a good chance to practice seeing a familiar person with a mask on. Plus, when staff interacts with children in the clinic, we have the time and training to talk children through the experience.
Children Who Won’t Wear Face Masks
Many children refuse to wear face masks because they’re uncomfortable. Adults can use reason to overcome discomfort. However, children are quick to refuse something that feels uncomfortable, especially children with underlying sensory challenges.
To work on wearing face mask:
The world is going to be full of people wearing masks now so we feel this is an important functional skill to start incorporating. The more we practice, the more we get used to it.
We aren’t requiring children younger than age 11 to wear face masks in the clinic. But, we will be available to troubleshoot with families regarding any issues surrounding face masks. Whether that is helping your child adjust to wearing a face mask, communication issues that result from mask wear, or finding adaptive options for shielding the face.
Hand washing for Children
Hand washing has always been an important daily living skill – but it's even more important now. Many kids, especially those with sensory or developmental differences, have difficulty with hand washing.
To work on this at home:
Pediatric occupational therapy is a great way to work on the skill of hand washing and applying it to a variety of settings. Each therapy session starts with hand washing so there will be plenty of chances to practice.
Children love to play and hug and poke and giggle. It is a normal part of childhood. Now, personal boundaries aren’t just about manners but also part of keeping everyone healthy. The amount of distance required around people presents a big change that is hard for children to understand.
Pediatric occupational therapy can help kids on an emotional level so they understand these changes and have a chance to practice in a safe context. We will give opportunities to practice social skills with social distancing guidelines in mind.
Processing Safety and Change
You can work on this at home. Research has shown that talking with parents plays an important part in reducing fear in uncertain situations1.
You can talk about:
A part of pediatric occupational therapy is talking through safety and security. It is fitting to talk about and practice change in a therapy session. Research has shown that using narratives to talk about upsetting events soon after the incident can help improve coping in children. Sometimes children talk more when moving or participating in sensory play. And overall, helping children process trauma and feel safe helps grow skills and support emotional well-being.
Children Are Ultimately Adaptable and Will Form Positive Memories
Children are amazingly resilient. They adjust to change all the time. Sometimes adults benefit from learning about adjusting to change from the young ones!
Children will likely remember this time – because it’s been a pretty memorable event. With parents not going to work, school's closing, and everyone needing to wear masks. But, amidst all the worry and unknowns, it can also be a time of fun memories and recognition of your family bonding through the changes.
By providing a stable base for your children, you support their ability to process change. Strive to help them build a story around what has happened, as forming a cohesive narrative provides a valuable tool for helping your children make sense of and process traumatic events.
The staff at Child’s Play Therapy Services is ready to help your child adjust to change and continue towards their goals. Call for an appointment today!