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Tag Archive for: kids health

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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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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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How to Have a Safe Halloween

Tuesday is Halloween, a night when children dressed monsters, witches, superheroes and more hit the streets to Trick or Treat.  While Halloween can be a fun night for both kids and adults, there are many dangers associated with it.  Learn some valuable Halloween safety tips in the following from Safe Kids Worldwide to ensure your little ghosts and goblins have a fun and safe Halloween night!

Safe Kids Worldwide:  Halloween Safety Tips

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Dear Everybody: Let’s Put an End to The Stigma of Disability

Children living with disabilities often face a number of physical and mental challenges, however, on top of this are also facing social challenges such as bullying and lack of inclusion.  In fact, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital states that 53% of children living with a disability have zero or only one close friend.   Holland Bloorview has created a new campaign to help put an end to the stigma of disabilities.  The Dear Everybody Campaign aims to provide awareness, knowledge and resources to help put an end to the stigma of disability.

Learn more about the campaign and help create change by visiting their website deareverybody.hollandbloorview.ca.

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Tragedy and Terror are Everywhere – What Do You Say to Your Kids?

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

Co-authored by Angie Kingma, OT at 

Every generation is said to be shaped, influenced and molded by the major world events that they experience.  These events hit us so deeply that most of us can remember where we were when we “heard the news”, how we felt in the moment, and the way the world changed following the event.  Today is the anniversary of 9/11 and marks a day of mourning for those of us that still feel deeply connected to the senseless tragedy that remains the world’s worst terrorist attack.  But the threats aren’t over and the connected world we live in exposes all of us, including our children, to these events in gory detail complete with photos, video and even the live streaming of things as they unfold.  If parents are not careful, these events can have a negative, harmful and life-lasting impact on children especially if we don’t help them process what they are seeing or hearing. 

So, in the spirit of both mourning and hope, today I wanted to try and provide some suggestions on ways we can talk to our children about events like 9/11, the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert, North Korea testing missiles, the terrorism in Paris and London, attacks on Parliament Hill, or even the recent suffering caused by hurricane Harvey and the wildfires in Western Canada.  Despite the fact that I am a mom of four, I still struggle to have these conversations with my kids, and as such reached out to an Occupational Therapist friend and colleague skilled in mindfulness (Angie Kingma www.mindfulnessforhealth.ca) to get her take on how all parents can try and manage these conversations better.  Here is what Angie had to say:

Some parents take the stance that they’d rather shield their kids from the disturbing events that continue to happen daily around the world.  These parents are well-meaning, assuming that talking about these grim facts will not only upset their kids but perhaps also cause harm.  However, literature shows quite the opposite. What happens is that these kids are denied the opportunity to develop the resilience that is necessary to become a healthy, fully functioning adult. There are other parents who would like to discuss these issues but just don’t know what to say or where to start.

Mindful parenting can greatly enhance our ability to be skillful when talking to our kids about the world’s hard truths.  So, what exactly is mindful parenting? It involves the intention to bring a particular quality of attention to the interactions with our children, as they unfold moment-by-moment. To do this, we choose to consciously pay attention to what is arising in the present moment, becoming aware of what’s happening internally for both the parent and the child, as well as what’s happening externally. Mindful attention is enveloped by attitudes of non-judgment, gentle curiosity, open-heartedness (kindness and compassion), as well as acceptance.  We are especially interested in the child’s thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, as well as our own. We practice mindful listening, which just means listening with full attention, staying present, conveying to your child that you are truly listening and care about their experience.   This quality of focused attention and awareness goes beyond just listening to the words, and includes awareness of facial expressions and body language.

Here are some mindful communication tips when talking to kids about life’s difficulties:

Don’t avoid the conversation. Depending on your own comfort level, let kids know that darkness, misfortune, evil, natural catastrophes and other unpleasant life pressures do exist.

Explain issues to kids in an honest and age-appropriate manner.

Keep it simple. Kids don’t need the gruesome details, just the gist of the event.  Find out what they know about it first and then fill in the gaps with the basics of what happened.

Remind your child that you might not have all the answers but that you know it’s important to have these types of discussions. Sometimes they aren’t looking for answers, our kids just need to feel “seen” and “heard”, and to feel a sense of safety.

Stay level-headed when you’re discussing difficult news. Practice ‘radical acceptance’ of these realities, which simply means acknowledging the truth of things (radical acceptance doesn’t mean we that we have to like it or approve).

Pay attention to your own feelings.  Since events like terrorist attacks evoke strong emotions in us and our kids, be aware of what feelings are coming up in you before the conversation and during. Pay attention to your feeling(s) and observe them, breathing with them, without having to act on or get overwhelmed by them. When we can regulate our own feelings, it can help your child to regulate their own feelings (a term called “co-regulation”).

Share with your child what strategies you use to deal with distressing situations.

Seek professional assistance if you’re having feelings that are too difficult to manage on your own or your coping strategies are unhealthy or ineffective.

Pay attention to your child’s feelings.  Help them name what they are feeling, which tips us in the direction of emotional regulation. Ask them if they can describe where in their body they feel their emotion, ex. tightening in chest, butterflies in the tummy, tension around their head.

Listen open-heartedly to your child’s feelings about the situation. Ask open-ended questions such as “How does hearing about this make you feel?” or “Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?”

Validate your child’s feelings, even if you don’t understand them yourself. Say “Of course you’d feel that way. That makes total sense to me”.

If you notice a significant increase in fear and anxiety in your child that begins to affect their daily functioning, report this to your family doctor as soon as possible and consider getting a referral to a children’s mental health specialist.

Respect it if your child will simply not talk about certain topics. Some children, particularly kids who already have anxiety, won’t be able to tolerate the conversation so don’t force it. Other kids will have a lot to say and want to discuss it at length. Neither response is better than the other.

Difficulty helps to build our resilience. Let your child know that the things that we go through in life make us stronger and teach us important lessons.  Point out specific stories of heroism, survivors, first responders or people coming together to help one another during times of need.

Teach the concept of impermanence, meaning that while difficulties in the world do exist in the present moment, things are always changing. There is hope that things will change for the better. Practice modelling attitudes of hope and optimism and discuss the importance of these with your child.

Not only does mindful parenting and communication strengthen the parent-child bond and facilitate a strong attachment, it also cultivates emotional awareness and self-regulation, which our world so desperately needs.

“Your mindful presence is the most valuable and precious gift you can give to yourself and to your children.”

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The Fidget Spinner – Useful or Distracting?

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

Co-written with Student Occupational Therapist Elizabeth Fallowfield

Last spring my daughter brought home a “fidget spinner” that she purchased off a kid at school.  She showed me how this worked as I had not seen it before.  After watching her use this I had flash backs to my pen-twirling days from University.  When I started my undergrad at the University of Waterloo, I noticed other students (many foreign) that would twirl or spin their pen in their hand during lectures.  I decided I too wanted to master this, and spent many-a-lecture working more on my pen-twirling skills than absorbing the worldly lessons of my professor.  Eventually, after launching a few pens rows ahead of me, or losing them altogether, I mastered the twirl, flip and spin with both my dominant and non-dominant hands.  Sometimes I would even get daring and twirl two pens at once (only in the really boring lectures of course).  To me, the fidget spinner serves the same purpose – give your hands something to do when you should otherwise be focusing and attending to something else.  But is this really the case?

The History of the Fidget Spinner…

The fad fidget spinners we saw in classrooms everywhere are a specific type of “fidget”, which can also include things like stress balls, fidget cubes, putty or smooth stones. The purpose of these “fidgets” are to allow for movement and sensory input – which then helps to either calm the body, or allow it to become more alert based on the sensory profile of the person, as assessed by a qualified therapist, such as an Occupational Therapist. The sensory profile is a depiction of the way that a person seeks, processes and organizes sensory input. It is this sensory profile which would determine for example, whether movement and fidgeting is beneficial – allowing someone to calm their body in order to stay seated throughout a lesson, or whether it would be overloading, or distracting.

For these reasons, fidgets were originally used as part of therapy for children with ADHD or Autism, who often have trouble regulating themselves in a classroom setting. However, the popular spinners we see in classrooms today are not a design of fidget commonly used for therapeutic treatment. A fidget cube is an example of a more therapeutic fidget that would provide tactile or touch stimulation without the visual distraction of spinning.

What Does the Research Say?

The Occupational Therapy profession is a leader in sensory processing assessment and research, and while these specific types of spinners are too new to have been researched specifically, the research on other types of spinners is clear – they can be equally helpful, harmful or neutral to a person’s focus depending on their unique sensory needs – which can only be accurately assessed by an Occupational Therapist or healthcare provider with training and experience in sensory processing theory and assessment.

The Bottom Line: Fidget Spinners are a Better Toy than a Therapy…

Parents and the general public should be cautious of the claims that fidget spinners are a broad and successful therapy tool for managing ADHD and Autism, or that they are globally effective at increasing attention and focus, or have a calming influence.  Truthfully, fidget spinners could be either an outlet to provide stimulation and to increase attention, or a distraction from something that is likely more important to be attending to (i.e. expensive University lectures). So, perhaps unless prescribed, these are best left at home this coming September.

 

References:

Barton, E., Reichow, B., Schnitz, A., Smith, I., Sherlock, D. (2015).  A systematic review of sensory‐based treatments for children with disabilities.  Research in Developmental Disabilities, 37, 64‐80.

Foss-Feig, J. H., Tadin, D., Schauder, K. B., & Cascio, C. J. (2013). A substantial and unexpected enhancement of motion perception in autism. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(19), 8243-8249.

Stalvey, S. and Brasell, H. (2006). Using Stress Balls to Focus the Attention of Sixth-Grade Learners. Journal of At-Risk Issues, 12, 2, 7-16.

Zimmer, M., Desch, L., Rosen, L. D., Bailey, M. L., Becker, D., Culbert, T. P., … & Adams, R. C. (2012). Sensory integration therapies for children with developmental and behavioral disorders. Pediatrics, 129(6), 1186‐1189.

 

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Back to School: Back to Routine!

Due to vacations, sleepovers, and the unstructured nature of no school, daily routines are often disrupted over the summer months. A consistent daily routine for kids is critical to them learning responsibility, time management, and so they get a good sleep.  Therefore, in September it is important to re-establish what morning, after-school and bedtime time should look like.

Use our customizable free printable to help kids stay on track each day in the morning, after-school and before bed!  Be sure to review this with the kids before implementing, confirm the expectations, and get their commitment.  You’ll be well on your way to creating a less stressful and more organized home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more helpful tools for children and adults visit our Printable Resources Page.

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Back to School: OT’s Help Kids Succeed in the Classroom

As it’s back to school time we wanted to shed some light on the awesome work Occupational Therapists do to help children succeed in the school system.  From helping with IEP’s, to modifying the classroom environment, an Occupational Therapist can help to enhance the learning experience based on the individual needs of the child they are working with.  Learn more about how OT’s help kids in schools in the following care of the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists. 

OSOT:  How can I benefit from OT?  Succeed at School