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Archive for category: Kids

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What to Look for in a Backpack

Backpacks are a staple for every student. They travel back and forth between home and school, lugging books and school supplies. They are put through the unavoidable daily abuse of being thrown on the ground, trampled on, stuffed into a cubby or locker, saving a spot in line, and become over-stretched and over-used with the necessities of school. They are a necessary part of your child’s education, yet how much thought do you really put into the backpack your child wears aside from maybe price or color?  Have you considered the health implications of an improperly worn, fitted, or poorly supportive backpack?

Learn what to look for in a backpack to ensure optimal support in the following infographic:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on how to select a backpack, proper fit and use watch our OT-V episode, Backpack Safety Guidelines.

 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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No You May NOT Wait in the Car

Have your children ever asked you if they could just wait in the car while you run into the bank, grocery store or post office?  Though it may seem like a short trip where kids would be safe, they may not be.

In keeping with our posts about summer health and safety, I thought I would touch on another very tragic, but preventable, circumstance surrounding cars and children.  It was the first very hot and humid day a few summers ago when I heard of the death of a two-year-old after his grandmother left him in the car.  She just forgot he was there and went about her day.  While it might seem inconceivable that this could happen to any caring and well-intentioned adult, I read an article recently that helped me to understand how possible this is.

Several years ago a mother in Calgary was returning to her job as a University Professor after a one-year maternity leave following the birth of her second child.  She was a well-educated and diligent mother that did everything she could to protect the safety of her children during pregnancy, at home, and in the community. With her return to work the family had to adopt a new routine.  She dropped her older child at day care and proceeded to take her daughter (11 months) to her new child care provider.  The mother and daughter were singing and laughing in the car when the child fell asleep.  The mother then spent the next several minutes putting together a very detailed mental plan of how she was going to get her child out of the car seat and into the day care without waking her.  Once she visualized that process, and understood how it would all work, her mind rapidly switched to thoughts about her first week back at work and all the things she needed to accomplish.  She arrived at work, went about her day, and realized when she came to her car to go home that her daughter was still in the car seat.

Her purpose of engaging in the interview and having the article published was to help people understand how this could happen and how it can be prevented.  For her, she believes that the process of “visualizing” the drop off of her daughter made her mind believe that it actually happened.  When her mind switched to thinking about work, it was convinced that her other responsibilities had been completed.  This is the power of visualization, and of a distracted mind.

But I feel the most important aspect of the article were the strategies for prevention.  The mother went on to have other children and talked openly about the steps she now takes to ensure she does not relive this tragedy.  She explained that she always makes sure she puts something in the back seat with her children.  Her purse, work bag, lunch. This requires her to enter the back seat of her car when getting out.  Or, the opposite could also work – put a diaper bag, toy or child backpack in the front seat to cue you to their presence.  This mother also said she has asked her child care providers to call her directly if her children are not dropped off on time, as expected.  Lastly, when putting her children in their car seat she puts on a bracelet that is kept in the seat.  She takes it off when getting them out. This serves as a visual cue, but has also become part of her new car seat routine that will reinforce a new behavior (put the bracelet back in the car seat when leaving the vehicle, making her access the seat).

According to WebMD “there is no safe amount of time to leave a child (or pet) in a car”.  The temperature inside a car can rise or fall exponentially faster than the temperature outside, as your car functions as a greenhouse.  Just get in your car on a hot day and try to breathe.  Preventing child death from being left in a car is possible, and parents need to be wary of new routines, changes in schedules, and the cognitive process of remembering multiple things.  And most of all, don’t be naïve enough to believe the self-fulfilling “this could never happen to me” phenomenon.  Any oversight, regardless of how significant, can happen to us all.

 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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Swimming Safety: Rules for Pools

In celebration of summer, I wanted to re-share this infographic on pool safety. These helpful tips and tools are good things to review and consider, ensuring you, your friends and loved ones are safe and enjoy some fun in the sun this summer!  Remember, when it comes to children, nothing is safer than diligent and attentive supervision.

 

Previously posted July 2017

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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Summer Reading Challenge

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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Fun Ways to Encourage Learning Over the Summer Months

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:

Previously posted July 2017

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule. We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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O-Tip of the Week: Encourage Active Kids with “Build Your Best Day”

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Spring has finally sprung and it’s time than to add some healthy activity to your life.  So, for the month of May our series will be providing tips to help you get physical!

We came across this great tool for helping kids ensure they are meeting physical activity, screen time, and sleep recommendations each day.  Check out Build your Best Day by Participaction to help kids find fun ways to get the 60 minutes of physical activity they need each and every day!

Participaction: Build Your Best Day

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Trampoline Parks: Are they Worth the Risk?

A place where kids, teens, and adults can go for hours of endless fun, any time of the year and it offers great physical activity… sign me up! Right?  Trampoline parks have become extremely popular due to the fun activities and obstacles they have, the fact that the activity can be done year round, tire out busy-bodies, and provide a form of cardiovascular exercise.  However, despite all of these great aspects, many wonder are the risks worth the rewards?  An increase in broken bones, concussions, and spinal cord injuries at trampoline parks have led to a call for regulation in Canada.  Recently, a trampoline park death has increased the urgency of addressing this inadequacy.  Learn more in the following care of CBC News.

CBC News:  ‘They are very dangerous’: Trampoline park death highlights calls for regulation

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O-Tip of the Week: Simple Ways to Turn of the Tech and Get Kids Moving!

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Spring has finally sprung and what better time than to add some healthy activity to your life.  So, for the month of May, our series will be providing tips to help you get physical!

Do you struggle to get your kids to power down and get active?  Devices can be addictive and detrimental to mental and physical health so it’s important to create a healthy balance.  Our Printable Technology Pass can help parents get their kids to power down and get active!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn additional tips to tame the technology habit in our post The Detriments of Screen Time and a FREE “Technology Pass.”

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One in Five Youth Struggle with Mental Health Problems – Do you Know the Signs?

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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Living with Autism: Occupational Therapy Can Help!

It is estimated that Autism Spectrum Disorder affects over 3 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide.

Occupational Therapy plays an important role in helping individuals living with autism.  Learn many of the ways an OT can support individuals and their families in the following infographic: