Advanced Pediatric Therapies


Why Can’t My Child Focus?

As your child goes back to school, you may be concerned about his or her ability to pay attention.

As your child goes back to school, you may be concerned about his or her ability to pay attention.

At APT, we see a lot of kids who have a hard time paying attention.  They fidget, they get up, their eyes wander.  There are as many reasons for this as there are kids!  By paying attention yourself, you can help your child focus on the task at hand.

You’ve got to move it, move it…  I apologize in advance for getting that song in your head, but it’s true!  Movement kick starts the brain’s ability to pay attention.  Provided in the proper ways, movement helps a child’s focus.  A great way to start the school year is to walk to school, or if you can’t, park further away and walk.  Try and get some movement going in the morning.  Stay away from the tv.

Talk to your child’s teacher.  Giving them a head’s up on your child is important.  Lots of teachers have great expertise in helping kids to focus with such programs as BrainGym.  Doing wall push ups or dots and squeezes prior to activities which require focus is helpful.  Some teachers set aside long periods for seated work.  Let your child’s teacher know that he or she will need a movement break (which can benefit the whole class!)  If you need suggestions for how to talk to your child’s teacher, ask us!

Read to your child, or do crafts.  When kids see that if they put the time in, they will be rewarded, they are more likely to follow through.  Try your hardest to keep going even when your child wants to give up (squirming, eye-rolling…).  Your commitment to the end result (getting to the ending of the story, a complete craft project) will go a long way to helping your child know the consequences of diligence.

Pay attention to posture and breathing.  When kids are slumped or don’t otherwise have room to expand their breathing muscles, they engage in more shallow breathing.  As such, their bodies are telling them, it’s okay to relax and check out now.  When kids sit up, they are more able to breathe efficiently and thereby pay attention better.  Try it yourself.

Board games.  Those board games that are gathering dust?  Pull them out of your closet and give them a whirl.  A game with a beginning, middle and end is a great way to reward sustained concentration.  You may have more fun than you think you will!  See us for ideas on games your child might like.

Go outside and play.  Tag, hide and seek and catch are great ways to encourage longer periods of focus.  Working in the yard, garden or tool shed with dad are great ways to motivate longer periods of attention.

Rethink technology.  Many of us parents are loathe to allow a child to spend time in front of a screen.  Read this article on the Touch Screen Generation.  It may help you figure it out.  Limiting their time and having them earn screen time are good ideas.

Examine your own reactions.  Try not to let them give up, even when accompanied by whining.  Also, don’t run to help them at the first sign of frustration.  It’s good for your child to be uncomfortable and have to struggle to figure something out.  Now is the time for them to learn those skills.

As always, ask your OT to help you if you have questions or concerns.

Thanks to Pediastaff for some ideas in this post.

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Back to Basics: Why Play Matters

Welcome back to the blog!  We’ve been on vacation-hope you had a great summer!

Time for a reminder of what play is really all about.

Time for a reminder of what play is really all about.

As occupational therapists, we believe that work is the job of childhood.  Okay, not the 9-5, clock in-clock out type drudgery they you may be used to thinking of as work.  Play is the primary occupation of kids and as such, it is where they go to learn, make friends, grow and adapt.

Play helps your child learn about the world around them.  Have you ever gotten your child a present only for them to be more enchanted with the wrapping paper and how it sounds when you crinkle it?  Ever taken them to an awesome playground and all they want to do is play with the rocks?  This type of play demonstrates the innate curiosity kids have for the world around them, and their inner drive to discover how it all works.  By engaging in this type of play, they figure things out like:  how big is it?  how does it feel?  will it interact with me?  what made it?

How cool is that?

Play helps kids learn about themselves and their bodies.  Just by throwing or kicking a ball, kids can learn so much about how their bodies work and how to make themselves or other things move.  They learn how tall or short they are, how strong they are and what they are capable of doing.  Mirrors are a great way for kids to learn about their bodies, but so is movement, which is the focus of most of the play you see at APT.

Play helps kids learn about other kids.  By playing with other kids, your child is able to learn a great deal about socializing, cooperating, compromising, and predicting the behavior of others.  It’s how your kids make friends.  When your child plays with other kids, they learn the value of being part of a team or partnership.  Kids learn even when engaged in parallel play (play alongside another child) and they begin to understand what type of play partner they prefer (quiet, busy, etc.).

Play develops muscles and subsequently coordination, endurance and a host of other physical skills.  By moving their bodies, kids build stronger muscles.  Have you tried doing the monkey bars lately?  That is hard work!  Muscles give joints feedback when they are used and give your child a developing sense of where their body is in space.

Playtime provides relief from boredom, sadness and anxiety.  Research suggests that simply getting your kids outside to play is an effective way to stave off depression and anxiety in today’s high pressure world.  Once the skill to get outside is learned, they are more likely to go there to help themselves when they are feeling a little blue.

As OT’s, it’s our work to help your child most effectively engage in play.  Maybe your child is low tone and has a hard time with physical challenges.  Or maybe they avoid other kids on the playground.  Maybe they get too wild and scare other kids away.  Ask your OT about what we can do to help your child get the most out of playtime.

above image courtesy of New York Times

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