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Tag Archive for: kids health

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Adaptive Physical Activity Guidelines for Children with Disabilities

Participaction and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, have created a fantastic resource for parents of children with disabilities.  The Ability Toolkit’s purpose is to ensure that all children are meeting daily movement requirements.  The toolkit helps to break down what a healthy day should look like for children and youth and provides ways to modify and adapt activities for many physical disabilities.  Take a look at the Ability Toolkit here and if you’re struggling to find adapted physical activities for your child consult an Occupational Therapist who are experts in providing solutions for living.

The Ability Toolkit

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Screen Time: How Much is Too Much and How to Change It

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

I was enjoying a nice dinner with a friend (also an occupational therapist) and we started a great conversation about phone use with our children.  She asked me “how much screen time is too much”?  Of course, there isn’t really an academic answer, but we talked from a professional perspective about the behavior of phones, the social risks and benefits, and from the parent side of our fears and worries about how these have become a staple in the lives of our kids. Then, she changed my world by introducing me to the concept of screen time (more on that below).

Parents have very polarized views on phones, so I get that how I manage this in my household may not fit with the values of others.  To recap, I have four teen daughters ages 14-18.  Our phone philosophy is that we provide our girls a phone for their 14th Birthday (Grade 9) and pay for this until their 18th Birthday.  After that, they are on their own to fund this expense (and can get as many gigs as they want).  On our plan, they have 2 gigs each and do not get an extension if they run out.  Their access to Wi-Fi at home is scheduled and is not limitless.  They are not allowed to have their devices in their bedrooms (concessions are made sometimes but they already have “old school alarm clocks” to negate the “I need it to wake up” argument) and they know that if this is beside their bed it needs to be in airplane mode to not disrupt their sleep.

Too strict?  Perhaps, but I see phones like every other “potentially harmful” thing I keep my kids from.  Sedentary time, junk food and pop consumption (tip – just don’t buy it!), and of course we do not serve them alcohol or buy them cigarettes.  I ensure they are all engaged in something active and encourage them to make decent food choices, even if they don’t.  Those things are easy for me to “parent about” because it is well established that “sitting disease” is a thing, “diabetes and obesity” are a problem, and alcohol and drugs are horrible for developing brains (not to mention illegal for my kids based on age).  But screen time?  How much is “too much”?  We don’t really know that yet.  We know that phones are highly addictive – more addictive than cocaine – and cause a whole host of behaviors that, like addictions, are hard to break.  They also promote highly sedentary behavior (they are typically used while sitting). So, here is how I handled this (and note this is for iPhones with a family plan, I don’t know how this works with any other devices):

  • Go to: “settings, screen time”.  To get to know how this works, the top shows your usage.  Push on that and you have the option to look at Today or the Last 7 Days.  Below that is a list of all the things you do on your phone and for how long.
  • Go back to “screen time” and you will see somethings below your usage:

o   Downtime (schedule time away from the screen)

o   App Limits (set time for apps)

o   Always Allowed (things you want to always have access to)

o   Content and Privacy (blocking inappropriate content

  • Then below that, you will see “Family” and a list of those “underage” as per your family plan.

Now for the cool parent stuff.  You can click on any one of your children’s devices and you can see for each of them what you can also see for yourself.  Patterns, usage behavior, time on certain things, and you can also put limits to the above (Downtime, Apps, Always Allowed and Content).  It asks you for a password so as a parent you can pick something that the kids won’t know.  They can’t change their limits on their own.

I don’t recommend arbitrarily just going in and setting limits as I think the best part of the “screen time” feature is the conversation that can happen around figuring out what is “reasonable”.  With my kids, I chatted with each of them about their usage pattern (something they never looked at).  We talked about the time on their Apps, and for some, questions like: “4 hours on Rodeo Stampede”?  This brought their awareness to their habits and allowed me to understand their insight into whether this was “good, bad or ugly”.  And honestly, it was a mix of all three.  After we understood their patterns, we decided on our “screen time limit” (for us three hours / day) and went through to give permission for all the “good” to continue, the “bad” to be limited, and the “ugly” to stop.  And the best thing is that these limits apply regardless of data or Wi-Fi – so even if they have unlimited Wi-Fi in public places, they can’t use their devices more than programmed.

Since implementing this several weeks ago, their screen time has dropped significantly, and they don’t even use their devices to their limits (which were set lower than their averages to start with).  In fact, three hours might be more than they need.

All of this brings me back to a popular concept in my profession of occupational therapy:  behavior change starts with being able to track and understand it in the first place.  Once you know where behavior is at, you can make a conscious and concerted effort to modify it to improve your own health.  Even if you drop your usage by 30 minutes a day and maintain that for several weeks, you just returned yourself 3.5 hours per week to do other (healthier?) things.

What’s next Apple?  An iFridge?

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My Child is a Picky Eater… Help!

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

Do you have a child that is a picky eater?  You are definitely not alone!  Picky eating is a common issue, and while it is normal for kids to have food preferences and dislikes, it can be quite concerning for parents.  The good news is an Occupational Therapist can help!

Occupational Therapists can work with families to create solutions tailored to the individual child. Some general suggestions may include some of the following tips:

  • Remove the pressure
  • Allow the child to “play with their food”
  • Encourage food exploration on their own terms
  • Maintain a consistent meal-time routine
  • Introduce changes and new foods slowly – overcoming picky eating is a very gradual process

Watch our popular video below to learn more about how an Occupational Therapist can help families overcome the picky eating problem and raise healthy, happy eaters.

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Give Gifts That Help Children ‘Grow’

If you’re a keen and organized shopper, I’m sure you have the majority of your holiday gifts already purchased, and if you’re anything like my Mother had everything done and wrapped in August! However, if you’re anything like my husband, you are waiting until the 24th to think about Christmas.

Although Santa and his Elves are hard at work building the toys your children put on their Christmas wish list, there may be a few items you still need to purchase.

We consulted our talented team of Pediatric Occupational Therapists and are happy to provide you with some fun but functional gift inspiration. These are gifts that are educational and stimulate child development:

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Sports Drinks vs. Energy Drinks: Can You Spot the Difference?

Are you able to spot the difference between a regular “sports drink” like a Gatorade and an “energy drink” that is full of caffeine and sugar without looking at the nutrition label?  It might be harder than you think—and if it’s hard for an adult, think of how many kids might make the mistake.  Learn more about a concerning new study warning the dangers of “energy drinks” for youth care of CBC News.

CBC News:  U of C researcher warns parents about dangers of high-caffeine energy drinks

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The A to Z of OT: K is For… Kids Health

Occupational Therapists work with people of any age, including children.  Occupational Therapists can assist children in many ways including, growth and development, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, overcoming eating issues and more.  Learn about some of the many ways an OT can help children in our post, Occupational Therapy Works for Kids.

 

October is Occupational Therapy Month and to celebrate we will be sharing a new series called the A to Z of OT.  In our attempts to further educate the public about what Occupational Therapists do we will be highlighting twenty-six of the awesome ways OTs provide Solutions for Living.  

We encourage you to follow along and to add to the discussion by highlighting other awesome things OTs help with for each corresponding letter!

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Beat Bullying with a Little Help From OT

Despite a huge focus on kindness, acceptance, and belonging, bullying still exists.  Young children, adolescents and even adults who find themselves being bullied by their peers often struggle through these traumatic experiences.  When it comes to “beating bullying” OT can help!  Occupational Therapists in South Africa who founded BullyBusters recently presented their helpful methods at the World Federation of Occupational Therapists conference in Cape Town.  Learn more about BullyBusters and their top tips to both bully-proof yourself and to overcome bullying if you’re already a victim in the following article.

Parent 24:  Practical tips on how to deal with bullying, the OT way

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Let’s Talk About Sex… and Education

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

Sexuality is an integral part of being human and is another one of those concepts that exists on a spectrum.  It contains with it physical, emotional, social, behavioral and relational elements that impact us all at various levels and times in our lives.  As an occupational therapist, I have had many conversations with clients about changes in sexual activity post-disability, injury or trauma.  Some of these conversations are as simple as “sex is the last thing on my mind” to “I would just like to sleep beside my spouse again”…to “do you have any resources or devices you can suggest to help me re-engage sexually”…

It was in 2000 when, during my OT training, we had a lecture designed to educate and inform us about adaptive sexuality and sexual activity.  The lecturer was perfect – he was a social worker, openly gay, and owned a retail store for adult intimacy items.  He was very knowledgeable about the topic of adaptive sexuality, counselled people at his store, and the topic clearly did not make him at all uncomfortable.  But that was not true of our class.  Soon after he started his lecture and produced some adaptive items that his clients have found helpful, half of our class got up and left (in fairness, he told us all if the topic made us uncomfortable he would not be offended if we left).  I was amazed and disappointed at the same time.  Here we were, in the process of being trained to help people function in all areas of life after disability, and some members of my class were not open to learning about this.  I guess that explains why the spectrum exists – because we all have various levels of comfort with such a vulnerable, intrusive and often “taboo” topic.  

Fast forward almost 20 years to the first weeks of school, I can understand the current debate in Ontario over the topic of sex and sex education and fully appreciate both sides of the argument.  But as a parent of four teenage girls, I must ask: “what is best for the kids”?  Well, that answer too will be complicated – for some, it will be best for them to learn from their parents and for others, the school will do a better job of educating them in a way that is respectful, honest, inclusive and forthcoming.  What I think we don’t want as parents, educators, or as a society, is for kids to “figure it out on their own” and turn to the internet and social media to get answers to their important questions.  As we all know, the internet contains a lot of harmful images, video, and opinions that could negatively impact them if they go looking.

Of greatest concern, however, is the mental health of the kids who have thoughts, feelings, emotions or experiences with sexuality that are unconventional, confusing, violating or just plain scary.  If these kids are not given the proper channels, at home or school, to talk and sort-through, understand, cope with and manage these, how will they adjust?  We know kids today are increasingly anxious and depressed, we know suicidal ideation and risk is high in youth, so how can we best support them?  I personally don’t think that is through undermining research that tells us these conversations need to happen, or by resurrecting outdated anything that we know is obsolete to appease those (like half of my OT class) who find these topics, and the evolution of sexuality over the last 20 years, uncomfortable.  Kids are smart and instinctive – if adults are fighting over this, the entire concept of helping them through the many phases of sexual development may become something they won’t allow any caring and responsible adult to be a part of.  That would be a poor outcome for us all.

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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.