Monday, October 1, 2012

Therapy Secrets: How to incorporate therapy into your everyday

Chasing Mama=gross motor

Incorporating therapy into your daily life was not easy, especially in the beginning.  Like all change, there's a steep learning curve.  Yet it is definitely worth investing time to make therapy a part of your everyday life.  When therapy becomes a seamless part of your day, it just becomes a different way of doing things.  It slowly becomes a new habit and habits are easier to maintain.  Once therapy is regular way of doing things, it can also make things easier overall.  It's also important to remember that we're in this for the long haul, so balance is key. 

Since I used to preach this with fervor, I was quite surprised at how hard it was to put this ideal into practice as a special needs mom.  But I can honestly say that it is worth the effort, which is why I decided to share my personal experience.  I hope that my "techniques" may prove useful to other special needs moms.

I am going to start another series called "Everyday Therapy".  These will be short little ditties with ideas and examples of how I incorporate therapy into my day.  Hopefully, these will be shorter, thus easier to write and I will be able to share information more frequently.  Well, that's my hope anyway.

On this post, I will share 10 general tips, which will soon be followed by posts of actual examples. 

Overcoming obstacles=gross motor
  1. Write down or think about your child's current goals.  Is it independent dressing?  Is it handwriting?
  2. Think about how you can help your child achieve their goals.  Brainstorm with your OT about activities   that would improve strength, coordination, endurance, motor planning, etc.  Ex.  Let's use independent dressing as an example throughout this post.  Activities that improve your child's body awareness, motor planning, sequencing, spatial awareness, and coordination will also improve their ability to dress themselves. 

    Body awareness can be improved by a variety of activities.  Perhaps your child could push the shopping cart?  Maybe they can help organize the books and carry them to the new location.  Maybe they can jump on a trampoline?  Perhaps hiking up a mountain would catch their interest?  Maybe they would like to decorate a life-sized outline of themselves?  Perhaps they can use a rough loofah to wash their body parts in the bath, while naming each body part.  Virtually any activity that increases sensory information to their bodies and helps them feel their body will help improve body awareness. 
  3. When possible go outside.  Something about being outside gets everyone moving.  There are things to see and things to explore.  It naturally gets us moving and it is the best and easiest form of therapy.   
  5. When possible, let your child do things as independently as possible. 

    For some, this may be pushing their arms through the  shirt, pulling their shirt down in the front, wriggling their leg through the pant hole, and pulling up the sock the rest of the way.  It may take 15-30 minutes to dress, instead of 5, but you can consider it a chunk of therapy time.
  7. Start slow.  Work with your therapist to figure out which area would be most fruitful to start: dressing, exercise, play, standing, or therapeutic techniques.  Start with one area, practice until it feels like a habit ( usually 25 days), then add another.  Over time you'll start to think like a therapist and it'll feel more natural.
  9. It's okay of you need to take a break now and then.  If your child has special needs, this is a long term investment.  It won't hurt to take a short vacation.  Besides, your child needs you to stay healthy and happy.  Taking care of yourself is part of the package.  Yeah, it's hard not to feel guilty, but you really need the occasional break.  You deserve it!
  11. If you start to feel burned out, change activities or focus on a different aspect of therapy.  I'm currently taking a break from the Masgutova Method, but focusing on feeding and language.  I just needed a break after 16 months! 
  13. Everything therapeutic should feel like play!  Play is the medium by which children learn.  So tap into your inner child, what gets you excited?  What makes you giggle uncontrollably?  If you're not at least smiling, than you're probably not having fun.  If you're not having fun, you're probably not playing. 
    Try to find common interests with your child and play together.  This will take some of the stress off your shoulders and you'll both have fun. 

  14. Share the joy with others.  Don't be the only one responsible for therapy with your child.  Get the rest of the family involved, this includes any interested extended family and friends who are interested!  Therapy may help the other family members bond with your child.  They may feel like they don't know what to do with your angel.  Show them.  Inclusion starts at home. 
  15. Re-evaluate how things are going at least once a month and make adjustments as needed.  Write down what progress you see your child making.  Discuss it with your family, friends, therapists, and doctors.  Celebrate the successes, no matter how tiny.  It will help you stay sane and happy for the road ahead.
Swing time=vestibular therapy

Honestly, it's not easy.  Sometimes, I wonder how long I can keep this up.  Yet I keep focused on the big picture.  Helping my son become independent will make him happy, but it will also make things easier down the line.  It's hard to focus on the big picture when exhaustion begs us to stop, but it's the big picture that motivates us to keep going.  Right?  All we want is our children to be happy, functioning at their potential, and included in the community that surrounds us.  The effort we put in now, will make that dream a reality in the future. 


  1. Great post, Bea. Very helpful. And #6 is so true. I often feel guilty if I take a break but honestly, it usually does a world of good for ALL of us.

    And your little man is getting so big! That first picture? Adorable!

    1. Hi Lana!

      Yeah, it's hard to take a break...but we all need it...even our kids!

      Doesn't the bow tie make him look older? Can you believe he didn't get dirty in a white suit? Sometimes, sensory sensitivities are a blessing; )

  2. Great post, thanks for sharing! We are seven years along and formal therapy is much less of a focus now as school takes up so much time & energy! Coops fav is speech therapy though and he insists it is not hard work ;)

    1. Sounds like you have an amazing Speech Therapist! Cooper is adorable!

  3. Wonderful tips and suggestions! My 14 yr old had a stroke at 2 yrs after brain tumor surgery. Visiting from Love That Max! Your little one is gorgeous!

    1. Thank you for visiting! I appreciate your comment!


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