Occupational Therapy Tips for Homeschool Parents

OT Tips

Although I’m currently home with my children, I’ve also worked as an Occupational Therapist for over 20 years. April is Occupational Therapy month, so Marcy has invited me to share some OT tips for homeschool parents.


Presence

It may seem obvious that as a homeschooling parent, you are with your child more than anyone else is. I often advised parents of children I worked with that I had a limited time with their children each week, but if they repeatedly performed the recommended activities, their child’s progress could happen much faster. You know your child’s strengths and weaknesses in part because of the time that you spend with them. Following are a few tips that can help you make the most of your time.



Perspective

Change your perspective to that of your child. When I helped design a therapy gym, I made things accessible at the level of the children we worked with. Most homes don’t have mirrors a foot or two off the floor like you may see in a pediatric gym, instead they are commonly positioned at eye level for adults. Considering looking at things from your child’s view; even get down where your eyes are at their eye level. Posters with pictures or information that they are learning can be positioned on a low bookshelf where they will actually be noticed by your child. Seeing things from their point of view might be just what it takes for you to see how to help them.


Positioning

This ties into the perspective recommendation. Make the task fit your child. If their legs are dangling from their chair, they aren’t going to complete a writing or fine motor task as easily as they would with adequate support.


Practice

Just like a tennis game or violin performance will be better with practice, “practice makes perfect” is true for many childhood activities. Give them unstructured time to practice the tasks you are also working on more formally. Let them play at it and have fun.


Patience

There is a freedom in homeschooling to work with our children at their pace. I can not emphasize enough: don’t compare! Be patient with your child as they learn and grow. Recognize little accomplishments that are steps toward the larger goals that you want them to reach. Celebrate with them as they do succeed. 


Play

Play with your child, both therapeutic play and just for fun. If you have a concern about a specific task, think of a way to require them to complete that skill while playing. In therapy, a child might be working on increasing their active shoulder motion to reach above their head. In play with a parent, the same child could be challenged to reach for the monkey bars on a playground. Sometime a simple change to an already fun activity can help your child turn a weakness into an accomplishment.


Persistence

Don’t give up. In Jeremiah 29:1, God promises: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV) If you are discouraged, make your requests known for God. Ask for help. Keep trying, and keep encouraging your child to try. 

Occupational Therapy works on increasing functional independence with life skills. If you think that your child would benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation and customized treatment plan, be sure to discuss it with your pediatrician.

Jennifer is an Occupational Therapist with 18 years experience working with children. With the support of her husband, she currently homeschools their three children. She has been a part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew for 4 years. Visit her blog  a glimpse of our life.

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