In OT school, we learned sensory strategies to help children self-regulate in order to attend to a task. I wanted to share some strategies that I am, currently, using to help my daughter focus while working at home.
- Joint compressions: My daughter was having trouble sitting still so I started squeezing her shoulders to try and keep her in her chair. Yes, it sounds like I was basically restraining her (please don’t call DYFS). She said, “Oh that feels good. Can you keep doing that?” And, BOOM, she sat and finished her work while I pressed into her shoulders.
- Give a hard “high five: Keeping with the theme of providing increased proprioceptive input, as a reward for each item your child completes, have them smack your hand really hard in a “high five”. Watch how they perk up from the impact and then continue to use this as a reward to keep up the momentum as they complete all their work.
- Let them squeeze a “squishy” while they are working: This is a way for your child to impose sensory input, independently. The key to sensory therapy is teaching the child to self-modulate. Think of an adult who uses a “worry stone” or rubs a rabbit foot. It’s all the same principle.
- Take a quick movement break and do jumping jacks: The key here is “quick”. If you give too much of a break, it’s hard to bring them back to focus in sitting. Have them stand up right next to their chair and rock out 10 jumping jacks and then immediately sit right back down. If your child has trouble with coordination, then just have them run in place really hard for 10 seconds.
- Let them eat something crunchy and salty: I put a bowl of corn chips on the desk and let her go to town while she’s working. It works like a charm. Strangely, I ate chips in class in graduate school to keep my attention. Of course, we were allowed because we were adults. Obviously, this will not be allowed for your children once they are back at school, so don’t make it a habit. Chewing gum also works.
I hope this helps! And remember…we are all struggling. This is not easy. We are not trained teachers. We are now required to do a job we don’t know how to do. I recommend reaching out to your teacher friends for advice. But also, reach out to Occupational Therapists. Stay organized and keep a daily structure. And most importantly, don’t beat yourself up about it. There are more of us sucking at this, then breezing through it with grace.