Thursday, September 12

Occupational Therapy in Homeschool

You might also be interested in Speech Therapy for Homeschool.

Occupational therapists focus on tasks involving fine motor skills, such as shoe-tying or handwriting.  Physical therapists offer exercises to improve strength, balance, and coordination, which helps with walking up stairs, running, and jumping.  Both are very much needed by children with developmental delays, but therapy is time-consuming and can get expensive very quickly.  

As homeschool parents, we are responsible not only for our children's education, but to make sure they receive any needed therapies.  Here are a few ideas to help you with basic therapy at home...

What are the signs of a delay?  If you are reading this, you probably already know whether your child is delayed, but here is the general checklist.

In younger children some of the signs of a motor delay include:
  • Not being able to bring their hands together by 4 months;
  • Not rolling over by 6 months;
  • Having head lag when pulled to a sitting position after 6 months;
  • Not sitting by themselves without support by 8 months;
  • Not crawling by 12 months;
  • Not walking by 15 months;
It can be difficult to judge with an older child, but generally :
  • often described as clumsy or forgetful
  • may have difficulty using a cup, spoon or fork to eat.
  • may have the tendency to drop items or run into walls/furniture
  • may have trouble with tasks requiring hand-eye coordination and dexterity
  • may also have difficulty holding a pencil and learning to write

Watching your children struggle with daily tasks is difficult.  We want them to succeed, but they have to learn on their own.  I cannot, and will not, tie my son's shoes until he is married...only to pass that task onto a wife.  So, we came up with new options.

  • Lock Laces.  These have saved us such heartache, and they are the very first thing I would recommend for a mom with older children!!  After years of trying to tie shoes, my son is now able to wear sneakers like all of the other children, thanks to Lock Laces.  And no more "baby velcro shoes."
  • Pencil Grips.  Again, a must-have for your homeschool.  Handwriting is a burden for these children.  No matter how hard my son tries, he cannot write legibly.  With the Pencil Grip, his fingers stay in the correct place, and we can at least make out 70% of what he's written...which is enough to decipher the rest.  Do we have a ways to go?  Absolutely.  But he's got enough confidence now to keep on keepin' on.
  • The Quiet Book.  This is a church-specific book for us, because it keeps him occupied during long sermons.  Any other time, he would balk that "it's a baby book!"  But he needs to learn the skills.  The Quiet Book focuses on zippers, buttons, snaps, and even shoe-tying.
  • Simon Swipe.  Remember the classic game, Simon?  Of course you do!  It's back, but with a twist.  Simon Swipe has been a fantastic addition to our son's therapy.  It's a big kid toy, and he even has to fight his brother to get to play with it (as you know, making it even more desirable)!  This combines auditory perception with fine motor skills and motor planning.  And did I mention that it's NOT a baby toy?  It's a great tool for older children.
  • Activities for Gross Motor Skill Development.  This book is for you, mom.  It will help guide you through games that will build your child's skill and confidence.
  • Activities for Fine Motor Skill Development.  This is your cutting, pasting, handwriting...and some tools and games to improve those skills.  
  • Handwriting Practice.  You might also print out some of these free handwriting skills sample sheets.  There are many different historical eras to select from...pick the one that interests your child.  You can choose the grade level based on your child's reading level, but then select manuscript or cursive, as desired, for extra practice.

If you're lucky, you are only coping with motor skills delays.  If you're like many of us, you have a Rolodex of therapists.  (Does anyone use those anymore?  Other than me?)  We have also compiled several resources for speech therapy in your homeschool.

Math Class & Occupational Therapy Combined
Our son needs kinesthetic, or tactile, learning methods. It can be very difficult to find materials for this learning style, but typically the ones labeled 'Montessori' will fit the bill.  

After a few years of math lessons, and still no progress on being able to count by ones, we tried having him write out his numbers regularly.  But it wasn't until we discovered this Montessori hundred number board that things began to fall into place!
The set comes with one hundred wooden numbers, from 1-100, a grid board, and also a storage box for the number pieces. All of the wooden pieces are smooth, so you don't have to worry about splinters.  It comes with a printed-number page, but also with a blank page for more advanced learners.  It's sturdy, it's hands-on, and in a matter of weeks, we are noticing the difference!

How does it relate to occupational therapy?  Simple.  You're working with small pieces, so tuning those fine motor skills.  Also, by physically touching the squares, it helps the brain to integrate that learning.

Occupational Therapy At Home

  • Massage – Deep pressure helps our son when he begins to feel a loss of control.  It also helps to get him moving when he has no energy.
  • Trampoline –  There's something about bouncing that helps to center sensory children.  Even a small living room trampoline will do the trick!
  • Baking cookies -  For a sensory experience, try hand mixing cookie dough.  It might be a challenge at first, but the promise of fresh basked cookies usually helps us get started.  Need deeper muscle challenges?  Pull out the mixer and lug it up to the counter.
  • Gardening – Another sensory activity for a sunny day, getting hands dirty and smelling soil and fertilizers can help to desensitize against smell and texture issues.
  • Kinetic sand – An inside / dreary day activity, this is a good starting point for sensory / texture issues.  The sand doesn't get into everything (like regular sand), but still allows for that 'sandy' sensation.  It can be molded and played with...make a sand castle!
Subscription Box Option
Sensory TheraPLAY Box Photo 1Sensory TheraPLAY Box
Sensory TheraPLAY Box offers monthly deliveries of fun and therapeutic sensory items. Makes a unique and memorable gift for children ages 5-9!
  • Items encourage the development of important sensory motor skills and are both calming and therapeutic
  • 5-7 sensory toys and items are inside each month's box
  • Boxes ship out the first week of each month
  • Items include: putty, aromatherapy dough, hand fidgets, tactile/ textured toys, etc.
  • Beautifully and thoughtfully created – makes the perfect gift!

Meet OT Mom!
As a homeschooling mom with a background in pediatric occupational therapy, OT Mom provides activities and resources for at-home occupational therapy that doesn't require fancy equipment.

Our tween son still requires assistance with fine motor skills, and finding activities that aren't overtly babyish can be a problem.  Using the cutting skills pack, we were able to create a scary snake, some Christmas decorations, and make a 'rocket tree.' 
You'll notice in the first picture of the 'rocket tree' parts that the pieces aren't cut very well.  We make a game out of it and just keep trying...and in the second picture, they are done much better!

Some of our favorite resources - that we have personally used - include:

Snag a slew of resources in the Homeschool Helpers Bundle!

Covers ten topics to get your homeschool running smoothly!
Getting Started
· A Parent’s Alphabet
· Choosing the Right Curriculum for Your Family
· Motivating Your Teens
· Seven Steps to Teaching Work Ethic
Special Needs
· Occupational Therapy in Homeschool
· Speech Therapy in Homeschool
· Teaching the Distracted Child
Making it Fun
· Game-Schooling – Learning through Play
· How to Snag Free E-Books
· Holiday Foreign Language Fun

Looking for more?  Check out the original Mom’s Bundle and Homemaking & Homesteading Bundle!

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