Returning to school or childcare programs this fall presents an unprecedented situation for children and teenagers. Here at Kidsense, located in downtown Hood River, our team of pediatric occupational and speech therapists collaborated to offer suggestions for supporting Gorge children during this uncertain transition.

Structure and Routine is Essential

With the change in typical classroom structure, a consistent daily routine can help children emotionally self-regulate because they understand what to expect from the day. Even better: Make a poster and list out (or ask your child to help draw) each school activity for the day. Visual schedules can assist with school-day transitions and regular routine promotes positive engagement with daily activities. 

Limited-Distraction Environments Work Wonders

If possible, create a remote learning environment with minimal distractions that is outside of the child’s room. Separation from toys, online games, and other activities can support engagement with remote learning. Consider keeping that area as a “learning-only” space. Sitting in a cozy cardboard box might be the just-right reading nook.

Alternative Seating for Focus

Sitting on a yoga ball or a seat cushion for school-work helps to improve alertness and attention for some children. Try stacking books or a cardboard box on a table for a make-shift standing desk.

Kids Need Other Kids

Social interaction is critical for a child’s development and wellbeing, especially during these uncertain times. Join our free virtual social group each week facilitated by a Kidsense occupational therapist. The Teen Social Group meets virtually on Mondays at 4 p.m., and we would like to offer social opportunities for other age groups. Please contact Kidsense at the email listed below if your child is interested.

Encourage Frequent Movement Opportunities

Children learn, process information, and typically feel more organized with movement. If you notice your child having difficulty sitting at a screen for long periods of time, encourage frequent and consistent movement opportunities — one of the advantages of remote learning. Setting a timer for a movement break every 30 minutes will support a child’s learning and attention. Some movement ideas: Jumping jacks, wall-pushups, jumps into the couch, mountain climbers, yoga, and crab walks.

Sensory Space or Tools for Calming and Alerting

Various kinds of sensory input can help to calm and alert our bodies and brains. If you notice your child exhibiting different behaviors or having trouble calming themselves during this transition, think about providing them with sensory spaces or tools that can calm their nervous systems. A few ideas: Create a cozy space full of preferred stuffed animals or pillows that the child can lay on, under, or squeeze (consider covering the space with a sheet), stress balls to squeeze during a school lesson, calming music or lighting while doing school work, or using an essential oil diffuser of calming scents (think lavender, ylang ylang, or chamomile for starters). Does your child feel sluggish and need some alerting? Crunchy foods such as nuts or a sour lemonhead, as well as chewing gum, can help with focus.

Get Outside! 

Nature and fresh air can be soothing to the nervous system. Digging in the sand and dirt are generally very calming to the nervous system. Fresh air also offers numerous health benefits.

Acknowledge What Your Child is Feeling, then Problem-Solve

During these uncertain times, it is important to acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings and emotions. While some children may feel content with learning at home, others may feel a sense of loss, confusion, sadness, loneliness, and/or anger. Validation is an essential first-step, then try problem solving with your child to find solutions for whatever emotion or sensation your child is experiencing.

If your child or teen is interested in joining a free virtual Kidsense Social Group or would like to speak with one of our therapists for more support, contact Kidsense at 541-386-0009 or at kidsense@gmail.com.

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