by Brittney Weinerth MS, OTR/L
Writing this post is scary for me. Bringing a "controversial" topic to the table of a small business is risky but I strongly believe that sharing our values will enable us to continue to serve those we are meant to serve.
In the past few days my heart has felt extremely heavy, helpless, and scared. But I have also been witness of people all around me (myself included) learning more about acceptance, opening their eyes to their often hidden internal biases, and being open and ready for change. Within our training as occupational therapists we spend a significant amount of time discussing various topics related to race, cultural sensitivity, understanding and recognizing our own biases, attitudes and beliefs. Additionally as a lecturer at San Jose State University I taught the course on professional development and one of the four pillars of the class was on embracing diversity (Self-reflection and awareness of one’s own identity, values, attitudes, and prejudices. Skills in perceiving, understanding, respecting, and responding to others’ diverse experiences, values, attitudes, and prejudices).
Despite having had the opportunity to spend a lot of time reflecting on and thinking about cultural competency and acceptance, I have learned so much about how far I have to come. This week I have learned big and small things such as:
- Many people are afraid to talk about race because they haven't taken the time to understand the culture, history, and preferences of people of color.
-It is usually preferred to call an individual "Black" than African American.
-The word Black should be capitalized.
*I am still learning and am open to being further educated. Thank you for those who have responded with additions or corrections to the above.
Although I have learned that I have a sense of fear around talking about the topic of race and racism, what I have learned the most is that it takes getting vulnerable right now and risking doing it wrong in order to learn, grow, and support.
In this post I want to share with you some toys I have purchased for our office to continue to promote diversity. I have also included some toys that I thought you all may enjoy to have at home.
1. 6 Rainbow People Wooden Peg Dolls
2. Colorations Multi Cultural Dough
3. I Am Enough
4. Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History
5. A Child's Introduction to African American History
6. Constructive Playthings Expression Babies Plush Dolls
7. Emotions Flash Cards Feelings
8. Crayola Multicultural Marker Classpack
by Thao Pham BS, COTA/L and Brittney Weinerth MS, OTR/L
Note: The following information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as appropriate, with a qualified healthcare professional and/or occupational therapist.
Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidance on measures that schools will need to take in order to reopen which included encouraging students to wear masks during times that they would be unable to social distance.
The CDC guidelines state that schools and families should:
"Teach and reinforce use of cloth face coverings. Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school. Face coverings should be worn by staff and students (particularly older students) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Individuals should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently. Information should be provided to staff, students, and students’ families on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings."
Many parents expressed concern about the need for children to wear masks next school year and understandably were worried about their child's ability to tolerate wearing a mask. Wearing a face covering is difficult for most children, however children with sensory sensitivities will undoubtedly experience distress and difficulties complying with wearing a face covering. In this blog we are offering strategies to assist you in supporting your child to tolerate wearing a mask easier and have also included a free tool at the end of the post that can be used to incorporate the ideas presented in this blog.
Individuals with tactile sensory aversions can have a hard time tolerating wearing things (ie. sunglasses, hats, helmets, etc.) on their heads. The sense of touch is located throughout the body, in your largest organ, the skin. The sense of touch originates in the bottom layer of your skin called the dermis. The dermis is filled with nerve endings that give your brain important information about heat, cold, pain, and pressure or touch receptors. The face is an especially sensitive and delicate area because there are more touch receptors. It makes sense why wearing a facemask for long periods of time can be extremely difficult for many individuals. The lack of air, hot temperature, smells, the pinching of the straps, or texture of the mask can all play a role in making it hard for people with sensory difficulties to withstand. So what can you do?
Occupational therapists specialize in supporting children who experience life disruptions due to sensory processing difficulties. OT's are experienced in determining what underlies a child's difficulties as well as establishing a strong therapeutic relationship built on trust and understanding which often is what allows a child to engage in tasks that would normally be challenging for them. If your child currently has an occupational therapist, reach out to them to find out strategies that they feel would be best to support your child in their ability to tolerate a face cover. If not and you feel like your child struggles with sensory sensitivities in general, finding an OT who specializes in sensory processing is advised.
1. Approach From a Place of Understanding
What we are asking children to do - children with and without sensitivities - is hard. If your child senses that you know their struggle, can empathize with their struggle and that you support them regardless of if they can "succeed" with tolerating a mask will allow them to be in a better place to try hard things. Oftentimes children are unwilling to try hard things that they might not be successful at for fear of frustrating or disappointing others (or themselves).
Phrases to try might include: "I know wearing a mask feels uncomfortable for you. It sometimes feels that way for me too." "I'm here to help you with this."
2. Incorporate Your Child
Have your child be a part of the process. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder often need to be able to control or manage their environment in order to feel safe to try hard things. Work with your child to think about what kind of mask would be suitable for them. In particular, I recommend paying attention to their preferences, here are some different types of masks to consider:
In addition to having your child help you determine the type of mask you could have them help create a plan for increasing their tolerance such as when, where, how long. The method for incorporating a child will obviously differ based on their age but when a child feels like they have some control they will be more able to remain calm.
Phrases to try might include: "When do they think they will be most successful practicing the mask - morning, evening, when they're alone, etc.?" "Where would they like to practice?" "How long do they think they can tolerate it today?" "I really like my mask to be soft, which kind of mask do you think you would like [showing pictures]?"
3. Build Tolerance Slowly
Consistency, patience, and repetition are all important components when establishing any routine. Likewise, increasing tolerance to sensory aversions takes time. Explore what your child can currently tolerate. It may be holding the mask in their hand. Would they be willing to touch the mask to their cheek? Perhaps they don't even want to look at the mask. If that’s the case, you might start by having them sit at a table with the mask close by. Remember, you want to set them up for success so start wherever they're comfortable.
Using a timer can be a great way to help your child see improvements or work towards their goal. Set the timer for a small amount initially that you know they can be successful at – even if it’s for just 5 seconds. Then reward their success and slowly increase their time next time. When first introducing I find the most success when I stop at their first success rather than continuing to push them to their limits. It shows them that I respect how hard this is and help them trust me as we get further down the process when I do need to push them harder.
We strongly recommend short and targeted practice sessions. Let’s say 5-15 minutes depending on their tolerance. These sessions need to become part of their daily schedule, add it to their daily routine.
At first, it may help to hold these practice sessions at the same general time and location during the day. You know when your child is at their best. Perhaps right after lunch, dinner, or before bed. Try to be consistent. But also remember that the goal is to get them used to wearing it when going outside and any time it is needed. So once they are able to tolerate it without distress, start varying the time of the practice sessions throughout the day and where they practice (again encouraging them to come up with this plan rather than telling them what to do).
Phrases to try might include: "Great job! You tolerated wearing the mask for 3 minutes today which is 1 minute more than you did last time."
Other Ideas and Strategies:
by Kathryn Wise
We know what you are thinking! Those tiny little blocks scattered along the floor and you accidentally step on them! But, did you know Legos are one of the most versatile play objects and offer a ton of developmental opportunities! Legos can help children follow directions, collaborate with others, and use their imagination! During this period of time at home, we would like to highlight some strategies to make the most out of your Lego experience!
The fine motor benefits from Lego help develop the detail movements of the hand This may include overall strengthening and the ability to manipulate and control various objects and tools.
Legos require us to use both sides of our body. These skills are needed for such things as eating and dressing. Legos allow us to automatically use both sides of our body while doing something fun!
Legos come in all shapes, sizes, and colours. Children are required to use their tactile perception and discriminate in order to proper place the lego. Children require visual processing to find and match colours, shapes and pictures of the models.
Some tips and strategies:
Here is one of our clinics favorite Lego set's. We are able to adapt it for kids of varying ages despite it being a rather simple set. For older kids we may put the pieces in various steps of an obstacle course or we may have them describe the piece they need, practicing using descriptive language.