Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Interview with Julie -- Using principles of occupational therapy in the home.

Meet my friend, Julie.  Her husband's name is Josh, and her children are Calel and Anilyn.  Julie is an occupational therapist, and I asked her to share if and how she uses her knowledge of health in her family.  Here's what she shared with me:

Occupational therapy is the therapeutic use of daily activities, work, play, and self care to improve function and increase quality of life.  Occupation in this sense is defined as what we do and the way we occupy our time.  We use these common activities to improve independence and restore ability.

I'm so grateful for my occupational therapy training when it comes to my kids.  I was able to learn about how children develop, common challenges for children, and what to do to set my kids up to win.

One thing we have made every effort to enforce in our home is minimal screen time (computers, ipods, ipads, cellphones, television, etc.)  Total screen time that exceeds 2 hours a day has been shown to correspond with a drop in academic test scores.

 Because we live in a multidimensional world, children need to be learning in a multidimensional way, moving their bodies and arousing all of their senses.  Allow for outdoor play as much as possible. 

Another thing occupational therapy has instilled in me is to let THEM do it.  As agonizing as it may be to watch your child struggle through a task that you can easily accomplish, let them.  Children (people really but particularly children) need to struggle through, try and fail, and try again.  Jumping in because it would be easier or faster is really doing your child a disservice.  Let them find the one hundred ways not to tie a shoe; let them put their clothing on backward, or write their names illegibly, or put the silverware in the wrong drawer. The practice is priceless.

I also value having learned both what is calming as well as what is alerting for children.  Many problems” of childhood can be traced back to a child who is either under or over­stimulated.  For an over­stimulated child, deep steady pressure has a reassuring and quieting effect on children.  A long hug,  solid pressure on the shoulders, a firm back rub, and swaddling (for babies) all help to calm.

 Many times hyperactivity can actually be traced back to UNDER­stimulation.  When
children are under­stimulated they will try to create stimulation.  I see this with my 5 year old son; when he is not being called to alertness with the current activity, he has a tendency to increase the volume of his voice, wiggle more, maybe even whine or begin to act out.  Engaging him in a physical activity (anything from jumping and running to helping with dinner) can help to stimulate him and bring him back to an organized state. 

If I had to boil it all down, I guess I would say, “Let your children really experience life with both hands, the pretty and the gritty.  Let them play, let them try, let them move.”