The past few days have been an absolute whirlwind. As of right now, schools in my area are closed until April 8 at the time this post goes live. But honestly, it could change tomorrow. It is a confusing and stressful time for us, so I can’t even imagine how our students and families feel. Luckily, I work with AMAZING teams and we have truly come together over the past week to do our best to provide resources and activities for families and students. There are still SO many questions in regards to related services in this time of school closure. Jen linked to the most current guidance document in her post here. Honestly, we are just all trying our best to figure it out as we go along. Today, I want to highlight what I have focused on for week one of OT during the school closures. I also want to provide OT related resources and activities you may find helpful and finally, talk a little about next steps as we navigate this uncertain time.
So, what exactly have I been doing the past week? My goal for week one was to connect with all families and share resources and ideas. I primarily work in self contained classrooms, where therapy is fully integrated within the day. The teachers I work are awesome, and sent home a general suggested daily schedule and suggested academic and functional activities. From there, each related service provider sent home specific information for each child.
Activities and Resources
Attached to my email were just a few additional suggestions on ways families can support their child at home. Many suggestions were specific to goals or sensory needs but explained in a way that could be realistically worked on at home within natural routines. I teamed with teachers and therapists to streamline sending information home. I did not want to overwhelm families during this already stressful time!
While I currently work mostly with older students, my colleagues work with students as young as three. For the most part, we all followed the same plan for week one. I thought it would be helpful to compile some of these OT resources into one place. You may find them useful for your students or even your own kids! While by no means does this list encompass every single activity idea or resource available, there should be something on this list for everyone. I, along with my colleagues, have turned some of these suggestions into a ‘calendar’ with one or two ideas per day to make it easy to follow.
I recommend highlighting activities that are cheap or free and very easy to implement within natural routines. On top of everything else parents do, they are now being asked to homeschool their children with special needs which can be very overwhelming to think about (check out Holly’s recent post here for some great parent tips). Within many of the activities listed below, I have linked to websites and additional resources related to that activity.
Fine Motor Ideas
- Carry items with two hands around the house: laundry basket, tray
- Stringing beads, small pieces of cut up straws, or cereal on string
- Dot marker art
- Pick up items with tongs or clothespins
- Squeeze a spray bottle to water plant
Handwriting and Visual Motor Activities
Gross Motor Ideas
Daily Living Skills and Executive Functioning Ideas
- Send an email
- Plan out daily schedule
- Plan out weekly schedule
- Participate in household chores as independently as possible
- Participate in daily hygiene routines, like handwashing and toothbrushing, as independently as possible
Once all the initial contact and resources were sent out, my team started discussing the next step – videos and teletherapy! We are going to start by creating videos to make our tips and strategies come to life, support parents and engage students as much as we can. From what I have been reading, there is a lot of support for therapists moving towards the teletherapy model. HIPAA regulations have been relaxed, the national therapy associations are very supportive, and while I don’t deal with insurance at school, I have heard that insurance companies are going to reimburse for teletherapy sessions.
While there are still so many questions as to what elearning videos and teletherapy will look like, especially for our students who need a lot of support to engage, I am hopeful. Over the past week, I have learned just how strong our community is. Teachers, paras and school staff are amazing. Therapists are amazing. Families and students are amazing! We will get through this together, one day at a time. I’m looking forward to thinking outside the box to meet the needs of students and families as best as I can in the coming weeks.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Please supervise children appropriately and contact your OT for specific recommendations.