Therapists can apply years of training and experience, and roomfuls of appropriate equipment, to the care of your child, but you have one advantage that they do not: constant access. If you feel your child could use more help than he or she can get in the hours spent in a therapist's office, here are some sites that offer ways to help your child without leaving home - from organized therapies to fun activities with therapeutic benefits to catalogs that offer helpful equipment.
Play time cum Therapy
Finding the time to play with your child can be tricky, when you're also under pressure to do therapy and strengthen learning skills and bolster development. Try one of these eight play opportunities that do double duty, helping you both have fun and do good.
Floortime is a therapeutic approach that involves getting down on the floor with your child and following her lead as you play together. The hidden agenda is to engage children and help them advance through developmental milestones but to your youngster, it will just feel like play. To you, too, if you're doing it right.
Brain Gym is a system of exercises and activities that get the brain and body working together to improve learning, memory, and thinking skills. It's also fun to do, and as silly as you want to make it.
Below is a series of movements called PACE. They are surprisingly simple, but very effective!
As Carla Hannaford says, "Water comprises more of the brain (with estimates of 90%) than of any other organ of the body." Having students drink some water before and during class can help "grease the wheel". Drinking water is very important before any stressful situation - tests! - as we tend to perspire under stress, and -hydration can effect our concentration negatively.
This exercise helps improve blood flow to the brain to "switch on" the entire brain before a lesson begins. The increased blood flow helps improve concentration skills required for reading, writing, etc.
- Put one hand so that there is as wide a space as possible between the thumb and index finger.
- Place your index and thumb into the slight indentations below the collar bone on each side of the sternum. Press lightly in a pulsing manner.
- At the same time put the other hand over the navel area of the stomach. Gently press on these points for about 2 minutes.
This exercise helps coordinate right and left brain by exercising the information flow between the two hemispheres. It is useful for spelling, writing, listening, reading and comprehension.
- Stand or sit. Put the right hand across the body to the left knee as you raise it, and then do the same thing for the left hand on the right knee just as if you were marching.
- Just do this either sitting or standing for about 2 minutes.
This works well for nerves before a test or special event such as making a speech. Any situation which will cause nervousness calls for a few "hook ups" to calm the mind and improve concentration.
*Deep Pressure Play
- Stand or sit. Cross the right leg over the left at the ankles.
- Take your right wrist and cross it over the left wrist and link up the fingers so that the right wrist is on top.
- Bend the elbows out and gently turn the fingers in towards the body until they rest on the sternum (breast bone) in the center of the chest. Stay in this position.
- Keep the ankles crossed and the wrists crossed and then breathe evenly in this position for a few minutes. You will be noticeably calmer after that time.
If your child always seems to want to wrestle or push or pull or slam or drop, playing games that incorporate those activities with some deep pressure and massage may be a rewarding and calming experience. Wrapping up in blankets, pushing the boundaries of Body Sox, crawling through tunnels of pillows, splashing in a ball pit, having a tug of war, bouncing off the soft sides of a blow-up trampoline -- all can be fun ways to play as well as good therapy for input-craving sensory systems.
Chances are you've played goofy word games with your child, or sang some silly songs. Did you know you were reinforcing speech and language skills along the way? Most word-related play involves rhyming, repetition, memory, word retrieval, tempo, volume, and fluency in ways so fun and distracting that kids dont't even know they're working.
Doing a big old page of math problems may not sound very playful to your kids, but try a board game or a dice game, or challenge them to figure out the age of a favorite actor or count the number of pennies in a jar, and suddenly numbers look far more friendly. Work math into your playtime routine and get a learning workout for your time, too.
Many of the things you might ordinarily do with your child -- catching and throwing, kicking a ball, shooting a hoop, riding a bike -- may involve the very same skills that the physical therapist works on at school. Check with the PT to find out which activities would most reinforce what's going on in therapy, or read over your child's IEP to see what goals have been set.
*Make a Mess
It may seem odd to be helping your child make a mess but messy play can help children with sensory integration and occupational therapy goals, and the silliness of doing it with Mom or Dad only makes it more fun. Plunging hands into a bin full of rice with toys hidden inside, or sculpting with shaving cream, or drawing letters in pudding are all sloppy ways to strengthen skills.
*Use Your Imagination
In the end, you're the one who's likely to have the best ideas for productive play with your particular child. You know better than anyone else what your child needs, and the kind of activities he responds to. Give yourself permission to spend that time, whether it's a half-hour at the playground or a play-dough session at the kitchen table or a pillow-fight before bed. Having fun with you is important to your child, no matter what you do.