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Archive for category: Kids

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Summer Reading Plan

As mentioned in our post, Help Young Minds Stay Sharp this Summer, it can be difficult to keep children’s minds stimulated during the summer months and often many children suffer summer brain drain.  One of the best ways to put a plug on this drain is to encourage regular reading.  Encourage your child to set a SMART Goal for how many books they plan to read this summer and keep track using our free printable summer reading log.  Be sure to build in rewards when your child is on track and when they meet their goal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For additional helpful tools for kids and adults visit our Printable Resources Page.

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Help Young Minds Stay Sharp this Summer

It’s that time again… The report cards are done, the bell has rung, and summer vacation is upon us! Summer is a time for camps, vacations, trips, cottaging and so much more.  But with all the fun in store, where do they fit in time to learn? How do we as parents make sure our kids don’t suffer summer “brain drain,” while still ensuring they get the break and vacation they need?  Check out the following infographic for ideas to keep kids brains sharp while having fun this summer vacation!

 

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The Ability App

As seen on Ellen!  Today we wanted to showcase the inspiring story of a 12 year old boy who saw a person in a wheelchair struggle to open a door and as a result started building an app to help people better navigate communities.  Learn more about Alexander’s story and this amazing app by visiting The Ability App website.

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Preventing Injury on the Playground

Remember this as a kid?  Hanging on for dear life as someone would try to spin you so fast you would become sick or fly off at record speeds. I can only imagine the injury rates that prompted the removal of these from playgrounds.

As parents, we all have a different “danger zone” with our kids. Yet, there is a balance between letting them play recklessly and engaging in the new trend of “dangerism” where we are preventing our kids from taking risks – risks that can be so important to healthy growth and development. Playgrounds are a great source of physical exertion and outdoor exploration, but can also be unsafe. According to Parachute playground injuries account for over 28,000 injuries per year in Canada and that while many kids suffer only minor injuries, approximately 10% are hospitalized for a more severe injury often involving the head. So, how do we let our kids enjoy the playgrounds, have fun with friends, and explore independently while still keeping them safe?

Today, July 5th, is National Injury Prevention Day!  Take a look at the following care of Parachute to learn how to create a safer playground experience for your children.  Also visit Parachute’s National Injury Prevention Day page to learn how to Stop the Clock on other types of preventable injuries.

Parachute:  Playground safety

 

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Limit Screen Time for Proper Speech Development

While Ipads, Iphones and tablets alike are filled with programs for young kids and tend to be a helpful distraction in the grocery store or when parents are making dinner, new research indicates that too much time in front of a device may linked to slower speech development in toddlers.  Take a look at the following from PBS which discusses the finding and provides interactive ways parents and young children can use technology together to help build proper speech development.

PBS:  Toddlers’ screen time linked to slower speech development, study finds

Learn how to tame the technology habit with help from our previous post:  Too Much Screen Time? We’ve Got Solutions!

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The Benefits of OT for Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a condition that is most often caused by brain damage which occurs before or during the birth of an infant, or within the first few years of a child’s life.  Cerebral Palsy, can affect motor skills, muscles and movement.  Those with Cerebral Palsy are often able to lead a normal and satisfying life, and Occupational Therapists can often help them to achieve this.  The following article from My Child: Cerebral Palsy Foundation discusses some of the key ways Occupational Therapy can assist those living with Cerebral Palsy.

My Child Cerebral Palsy Foundation:  Occupational Therapy

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13 Reasons Why NOT to Watch

The new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has become a popular topic of conversation for both adults and youth, both online and in person.  Many kids will watch this before their parents even know that they have.  Yet, parents beware because the content in this is apparently both graphic and at times, disturbing.  In fact, the content is so concerning that school boards and even the Canadian Mental Health Association have issued statements cautioning viewers of this series:  CMHA National Statement Responding to Netflix Series: 13 Reasons Why

Personally, I take no pleasure in watching gory or graphic content of rape and suicide and do not see the value in sensationalizing this for the youth of today.  However, others argue that this series aims to deter suicide by showing how disturbing this can be.  At the least, know what your children are watching and heed the warnings.  Mental Health and Suicide are very sensitive topics – not to be taken lightly.   

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Parents Alert! The Signs of Mental Health Challenges in Children and Teens

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I was recently reviewing my daughter’s school handbook and noticed the section on child and youth mental health.  According to this (and the Canadian Mental Association) 1 in 5 children and youth struggle with mental health problems.  While great strides have been made over the last several years to destigmatize and demystify mental health problems in both adults and kids, I feel this remains generally misunderstood.  In my practice, I still see the common misperceptions that people with anxiety don’t leave the house or appear nervous and anxious in public, or that people with depression sleep all day, don’t attend to their appearance, and sit around crying and feeling sorry for themselves.  The truth is that mental health is a spectrum, or a continuum if you will.  It can vary and no one’s experience will be the same.  In children, mental health problems can present differently.  As per the handbook I was reading, the signs might include:

·        Anxiety and fear that does not go away

·        Frequent crying and weepiness

·        Loss of interest in activities that were a source of pleasure in the past

·        Difficulty concentrating

·        Lack of energy or motivation

·        Problems at school with falling marks

·        Withdrawal from family, friends and school activities

·        Increased school absences

·        Loss or increase in appetite

·        Sleeping too much or too little

·        Increased irritability, anger or aggression

·        Neglect of personal appearance

·        Frequent stomach aches or headaches

·        Increased alcohol or drug use

In general, parents should be able to monitor most of these and overt changes might be obvious (suddenly disconnecting from friends, drastic changes in grades, behavior change at home, quitting enjoyed activities, not eating food or participating in meal times, etc).  But like with the continuum of mental health in adults, some of these might present some days and not others, or be so subtle that they deteriorate very slowly over time.   As parents of teens we need to be the barometer for our kids as they may lack the ability to relate some of these signs to mental health or internal struggle.

Luckily, in Southern Ontario anyway, I see the mental health problems of kids being taken seriously and there are publicly funded community supports available.  But getting your child connected with these can be the challenge.  It can be hard to convince a teen to do anything they don’t agree with, let alone getting them to the myriad of appointments with doctors and clinicians that can help.

Occupational therapy plays many roles in helping kids and teens address issues with mental health.  While some occupational therapists are trained to provide psychotherapy, others use meaningful and enjoyable tasks to help with mood elevation, reactivation and reengagement.  We are skilled at looking beyond the obvious to get a better sense of what might help at home, school or in the community to get your child or teen on track.  Sometimes it is as simple as helping them to reorganize their school work, create a process for managing assignments and tests, teaching them how to study in a way that works for them based on their learning style, or even looking at how their week is managed to make changes.  Occupational therapists tackle things like sleep / wake schedules, eating and diet, activity participation, grades and school success, managing friends and relationships, motivation through engagement, and dealing with negative pressures that create more stress and anxiety.

My advice if you are concerned about your child?  Start with your family doctor and discuss your concerns, even if your child won’t attend with you.  Involve the school in your concerns to get their support and guidance, after all your child spends several hours a day in their supervision and care.  Teachers can be a great resource and form of support as well, but you need to open those lines of communication.  Don’t expect the school to come to you – often they don’t.  If your child is in crisis, call your local Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) and ask them for help.  They can (and should) also connect you and your child to other community programs.

If you have coverage for mental health treatment for your teen (extended benefits, other insurance funding, out-of-pocket), including occupational therapy, consider enlisting a private therapist.  Private therapy often provides a larger scope of service, is more specialized, and can be provided over a prolonged period if appropriate.  Any good private therapist will try to work themselves out of a job by getting your child on track as quickly as possible and they will want you to immediately feel the benefit of their involvement.  Also, if you have private dollars or insurance coverage, I would suggest a psycho-educational assessment.  These are extremely thorough “brain tests” that look at all aspects of how your child processes information, manages cognitive tasks, and addresses the complicated relationship between our brain and our emotions.  The outcome of these assessments can be extremely helpful, and will provide both you as a family, and the school, with suggestions for how to best help your child to succeed.

I have always said watching my kids grow up is the best and worst part of parenting.  It is especially heart-wrenching if your child is struggling.  Watch for the signs, talk to your child and get them (and you!) support if they need it.

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Can Dietary Treatments for Autism Help?

The great debate about dietary treatment for autism continues.  Many parents with children who have autism are moving towards a strict gluten/casein free diet.  Although this diet has not been medically proven to help with the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD’s), many feel that it does.  Read the following from Autism Speaks to learn more about the debate over whether or not this special diet can help.

Autism Speaks:  How helpful is the casein-gluten-free diet?

We want to hear from you!  Has the Gluten-Free Casein-Free diet worked in your situation?