By Tara Thompson
I remember it like it was yesterday, leaving my daughter’s first occupational therapy appointment and trying to wrap my head around fitting home therapy in. As the months went on, the list of skills practice grew and grew. I had this frustrated baby that didn’t want to be part of it, I had my other daughter who did want to be involved and my brain was in a constant fog of worrying how I would fit it all in.
Well fast forward 3 years and I now have a 4-year-old that asks if we can do therapy at home. It has played a huge part of our family’s life over the years and is something that is no longer seen as this requirement that has to be squeezed in, we would not have been able to keep it up if it was.
Here are some of my top tips for therapy at home that have helped us find our balance.
By incorporating all or some of these ideas I truly think therapy can begin to become more fun and less daunting. Find what works for you and your child, the right way is your way!
IT’S OK TO TAKE A BREAK
If you are finding that therapy is taking its toll, take a break. If your child is showing signs of stress, take a break. If a lot is happening in your life, take a break. I used to feel so guilty about this but have learnt over the years that breaks are very much needed and more often than not my daughter learns something new within this time. Their little brains and bodies need rest and time to process things you have been working on.
NO NEED TO SPEND BIG
In the early days I thought the way best way to keep Willow motivated was through buying the flash therapy toys. I soon realised that while these are great the novelty soon wears off and it is too expensive to keep up. Instead, use items around the house; recycle things and stock up on cheap supplies and craft items from the dollar store. Put holes in shoeboxes to post things, use Tupperware containers for water play; we have even used socks for a throwing activity. Taking this approach means you will be able to come up with more activities instead of expecting your child to play with the same therapy toys time and time again.
FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD
There might be a certain time of the day that is easiest for therapy to be implemented or your child may be at their happiest first thing in the morning. Maybe you prefer having one or two solid sessions a week or maybe short stints throughout the day or week might work best. There is no right way, that’s the beauty of it. Remember every little bit adds up.
Have a place where you do therapy regularly. When we use my daughter’s therapy table I position it in the same spot where there aren’t any distractions. This happens to be against the wall we use for most of our physio play too. This doesn’t mean it is the only spot where therapy happens but it’s nice that we have a dedicated play spot.
Don’t be afraid to include siblings. Think of something they can both do, if it isn’t age appropriate, modify it. I have a one-year-old, a four-year-old and a six-year-old and there are always ways that they can be included. Sometimes I let my eldest be the therapist. There will be times when it needs to be one-on-one. This is when I will set up other ‘special’ things for her siblings.
KEEP IT PLAYFUL
Keep in mind that therapy is play and play is therapy so learn to approach it this way. Find things your child is interested in and go from there. Think outside the box. Maybe your child loves cars so get creative and let them push the car through shaving cream for some standing play, sensory play or therapy play.
MAKE THERAPY ACTIVITIES SPECIAL
Have toys and activities that are packed away that only come out for ‘special’ therapy time. This helps to create interest and keep it exciting for them.
This is a big one! I have ideas and activities stored away in containers. So, when we are doing therapy all I have to do is choose one. This saves time and limits the stress of figuring out what we are going to do. If we are working on two-handed play I simply grab one of our containers with our bimanual activities. Sure you might not start with much but over the years they will accumulate. I have so many tubs of things to do, our issue is not what will we use for therapy but that I wish we had extra time to use more of all the resources we have built up.