The transition to a new school year can either be successful or stressful. Some children struggle with this time of the year as they feel insecure and are filled with dread towards such a big change. Supporting your child with a few strategies can be an integral part of helping them to adjust their new situation. This will help to change your child’s thoughts from one of fear, concern, or apprehension to hopeful, optimistic and even excitement!
You can support your child through this time by advocating for their thoughts and feelings towards the big change by:
Chatting to their current teacher to understand the transition support already in place
Advocating if you feel your child needs additional support to transition successfully
Organising for your child to spend 5/10 minutes meeting their new teacher at the end of the year
Your child can write down a few questions they have for their new teacher to help ease their feelings towards the ‘unknowns’
Encouraging your child to write a letter/fill out an ‘all about me’ worksheet and send it to their new teacher where they can share their likes, dislikes, what works for them, things they struggle with, their goals or any questions they may have
Organising for your child to visit their new classroom close to the end of the year
This helps your child to familiarise themselves with how to get to their new classroom, where their belongings might go, where the closest bathrooms are, where their new playground may be and much more!
You can also take lots of pictures of your child in their new environment to make a story with over the school holidays or keep these pictures handy to go through with your child through the school holidays. This will help your child to continue to be familiar with their new environment even through the summer school holidays
Organising a time to chat with the new teacher
This is where you can help support your child by understanding and discussing the following with your child:
What will stay the same next year?
What will be different next year?
Will there be incursions/excursions/camps?
Will there be extra classes/new subjects?
How much homework might there be?
Will there be any class rewards?
What are some class rules?
Alternatively, you can chat to your Occupational Therapist at Building Blocks Therapy who can guide and support you and your child through this tricky time!
Building Blocks Therapy will be running two Programs of Support in the 2022 January School Holidays focusing on these transitions, including:
Supporting your child’s transition between kinder and primary school (Preptastic)
Supporting your child’s transition between primary school and high school (Class of ’21)
“Strengths-based” or “strengths-based practice” is a term that you may have heard your therapist, or someone in the allied health field use. The Department of Education (2012) defines the strength-based approach as “an approach to people that views situations realistically and looks for opportunities to complement and support existing strengths and capacities as opposed to focusing on, and staying with, the problem or concern.” This means looking for the strengths and positive aspects of all participants, rather than focusing on problems or concerns. It doesn’t mean that we are ignoring the problems or challenges that families come to us to address, but we try to view these problems in the context of each child’s strengths, and what assets, skills and supports they already have that can be used to address the problem.
The six standards for a strengths based approach, as outlined by Rapp, Saleebey and Sullivan (2008) are:
Goal orientation: The family and child themselves identify the most important goals, with support and input from a therapist, rather than the therapist identifying the most important goals in their own opinion. This way what is most important to the family and child are at the core of our goals.
Strengths assessment: We identify the strengths in the child and family, and resources they have access to, to support them in working to address a challenge.
Resources from the environment: Identifying that every setting, there are people who have something to contribute.
Explicit methods are used for identifying client and environmental strengths for goal attainment: At Building Blocks Therapy, we use assessments such as the Adaptive Behaviour Assessment System, or the Sensory Profile, to identify the child’s strengths and resources that can be used to work towards a goal.
The relationship is hope-inducing: By using the strengths-based approach, we aim to give families hope
Meaningful choice: We highlight that the family and child are the expert on their own situation and experience, and value this knowledge in any intervention.
Why do we use a strengths-based approach at Building Blocks Therapy?
By using a strengths-based approach, we are aligning our therapists to work with families as a partner working towards a goal, rather than coming in to ‘fix’ a problem situation (Smith & Ford, 2013). This supports parents to feel more empowered working towards a goal, and reinforces the value of the family in achieving goals! The strengths-based approach also aims to shift the culture to think more positively about those who need support, and to emphasise the independence, resilience, choice and wellbeing of the child and family (SCIE, 2015).
How can you use a strengths-based approach at home?
Identify and praise your child’s efforts, even more so than achievements
Acknowledge your child’s experience and repeat back to them showing that you have heard and understood
Use ‘us versus the problem’ language, showing that you and your child are on the same team, working against a challenge. An example of this could be a homework task being late, and asking ‘what can we do about this, how will we solve this problem’
Comment on strengths shown by your child e.g. “you were so patient to wait for your turn, I know you were really excited to have a go”
Help your child to rephrase negative statements. For example if your child comments “I can’t do that”, help them to rephrase “I will be able to do this if _____” / “It will be hard but I can give it a go” / “It’s ok if I make a mistake”
Department of Education and Early Childhood development. (2012). Strength-based approach. Melbourne, Victoria.
As lockdowns continue, the BBT therapists are working hard to ensure that families can access support via Telehealth. Although this is a slightly different experience than face-to-face sessions, Telehealth is a wonderful option to allow consistent, regular OT input and maintain a strong relationship between the child and their OT. Here is everything you will need to know about having an OT session via Telehealth:
What sorts of activities will my child be participating in during a Telehealth session?
Your child will continue working on activities that support their Occupational Therapy goals as they have been in face-to-face sessions. All goals are able to be addressed via Telehealth, although the specific activities might be a bit different to what your child is used to in face-to-face sessions. For example:
Fine motor goals: Drawing, cutting, handwriting and overall fine motor goals can all be addressed via Telehealth. Activities that can be done from home include learning shapes and letters and how to form these, practicing snipping and cutting on at-home items, and learning handwriting and self-correction strategies.
Gross motor goals: Your child can participate in gross motor games such as Simon Says, at-home obstacle courses, or special challenges all via Telehealth.
Social skills goals: There are lots of online games and activities that therapists can use to support the development of social skills, including turn-taking, winning and losing, and being a kind friend.
How long do Telehealth sessions go for?
Telehealth sessions will go for the same duration as face-to-face Occupational Therapy sessions; typically 45 minutes.
What technology will I need to have a Telehealth session?
Telehealth sessions are typically conducted via Zoom. This program can be accessed on desktop computers, laptops, or mobile phones/tablets. Ensure that you have the program installed prior to the session!
Your therapist will email or text you a Zoom link prior to each Telehealth session.
What resources will I need for a Telehealth session?
Prior to a telehealth session, your therapist will contact you outlining any resources you may need to help your child participate in their OT session. These will be readily available everyday items, such as paper, pencils, or playdoh. If you are not able to access the resources requested, this is OK! Let your therapist know and they will be able to plan new activities with what you have available at home.
What if my child finds it hard to engage in Telehealth?
Although Telehealth can present some challenges, it’s important to remember that any Occupational Therapy input is better than none at all. Having consistent and regular input from your child’s OT is important to support them in maintaining a relationship with their OT and seeing the best improvements possible.
If your child is really finding it difficult to engage via Zoom, there are some other ways to use their session time.
Progress Review: Lockdowns present a great opportunity for the OT and parents to touch base, talk about progress made, and re-evaluate therapy goals.
Parent Coaching: Parent coaching sessions are also available, where your OT can talk you through any specific difficulties you may be having (eg. Toilet training) and how you can best manage this at home.
Activity Packs or Resource Provision: Your OT is able to plan a set of specific activities for you to implement at home with your child, in line with their therapy goals. Alternatively they are able to use session time to create resources such as social stories.
If you are interested in any of the above options please touch base with your OT!
This includes setting a regular time to go to bed and wake up each morning for your child and keeping this time consistent on weekdays and weekends as this helps to set the sleep-wake cycle.
Ensure your child is having developmentally appropriate amount of sleep. If a child goes to sleep too early and does not need as much sleep they will wake up earlier. It may be necessary to adjust sleep and wake times accordingly to account for this.
Routine is significantly important to promoting positive sleep patterns and practices for your child and family.
2. Keep the Hour Before Bedtime Relaxing
Encourage your child to engage in quieter activities for the hour before their bedtime which are less stimulating and more relaxing. These activities can be with or without parental attention and involvement.
Too much activity before bedtime can cause the child to feel overstimulated, over aroused and this can result in keeping them awake for longer.
It is especially important to focus on calming activities for 30 minutes before bedtime with the last part occurring in the child’s bed.
These activities can include having a bath, massage, reading a book, picture stories, listening to music, pretend play, songs, nursery rhymes, putting animals or toys to bed, playing a quiet game, prayers etc.
3. Sleeping Environment
Consider your child’s sleeping environment and ensure your child’s sleeping environment is safe and soothing.
Optimal sleep is achieved when your child is in a comfortable bed, temperature is warm-to slightly cooler to allow regulation of body temperature, reduced noise level and making the room as dark as possible with the use of a night light if required.
4. How your Child is Falling Asleep
How a child falls asleep at night is often how they will need to fall back asleep if they wake up during the night.
Children who fall asleep without parental assistance are less likely to require their parents / caregivers when they wake at night and are more likely to be able to settle themselves and self-soothe back to sleep.
Aim for your child to go to bed sleepy but awake, so they can fall asleep relatively quickly by themselves in the same place where they will sleep all night. It should take children around 15-30 minutes to fall asleep at night.
5. Food Consumption before Bedtime
It is recommended to avoid consumption of large meals close to bedtime to promote positive sleep practices.
A small healthy snack before bedtime can improve sleep and ability to settle to sleep for children.
Avoid foods with caffeine such as chocolate for at least 4-6 hours before bedtime.
Having a well-balanced adequate diet also positively impacts on sleep patterns.
6. Physical Activity & Exercise Throughout the Day
Time spent completing physical activity, exercise or time spent outside throughout the day also positively impacts on your child’s ability to fall asleep and their overall sleep at night.
It is recommended that your child spends time outside, moving and exercising throughout the day to positively improve their sleep.
7. Day Time Naps
Daytime naps are essential for younger children depending on their age and developmental stage.
Extended day time naps, additional naps or naps in the late afternoon can result in your child sleeping less at night.
It is important to limit day time naps to developmentally appropriate times for younger children.
8. Keep Technology & Screen Time in Check
Avoid screen time for your child during the one hour before bed as this can be very stimulating and can negatively impact on your child’s ability to fall asleep and their quality of sleep during the night.
It is recommended to avoid electronic screens and blue light prior to bedtime.
9. Sensory Strategies
There are multiple sensory strategies which can be utilised both during your child’s pre-bedtime routine and during sleep to promote positive sleep patterns for your child.
This can include:
Temperature – ensuring temperature regulation for your child with a warm to slightly cool room temperature.
Visual – using blinds / curtains, use of a night light if required, dim lights as much as possible prior to bedtime.
Smell – aromatherapy, some children may like toys to smell like their parent / caregiver if they struggle with being separation.
Auditory – nature, relaxation and meditation music, white noise.
Deep pressure – massage, being tucked into bed, lycra sheets on bed.
Movement – linear, rhythmic movements, rocking, swing, hammock.
Sensory strategies are highly individualised and need to be according to your child’s sensory preferences, likes and dislikes. If you have any questions about what sensory strategies may work best for your child please speak to your Occupational Therapist.
10. Make Sleep a Positive Experience
Make your child’s sleep experience and going to bed positive for your child.
Gentle and reassuring tone of voice.
Give positive but calming attention when your child is in bed. Give praise, positive encouragement and rewards.
Can use a sticker or reward chart if working on sleep and changing your child’s sleep pattern.
Make sleep a priority in your family and ensure parents / caregivers are also modelling positive sleep habits.
If you have concerns or challenges with your child falling asleep, staying asleep during the night, waking up early or any other sleep concerns and you feel that your child and family would benefit from Occupational Therapy sessions to learn more about additional sleep strategies, interventions and recommendations to use to assist in promoting positive sleep practices, please contact the Building Blocks Therapy Clinic for more information.
Now that we will be inside for a week, it is time to pull up a chair, pour a hot chocolate or a cup of tea, and grab a pencil and paper to play these games that target a whole variety of skills! These activities vary in difficulty, and there is something here for all ages.
How many players: 2-3
Skills targeted: Flexible thinking, turn taking, fine motor skill, idea generation
How to play:
Begin by folding your page into thirds, and marking a ‘neck’ and ‘waist’. Label if you need.
Each player completes a section of this picture, without looking at other components. When each player finishes, they fold away their section and open up the space for the next player. If playing with only 2 people, someone can go twice. Remind players to look at the marked neck and waist to see where to start from to make sure pieces connect.
Once all three parts are connected, open the picture to reveal your creation!
What to encourage:
Using a variety of colours
Appropriate pencil grip
Thinking outside the box, what could we do differently? E.g. wheels for feet.
Letting everyone have a turn and think of their own ideas
Think of a name for your character. Write a profile about them, what do they like? What do they eat? Where are they from?
Dots and Dashes
How many players: Works best with 2, but you could do up to 4 with a big grid!
Skills Targeted: Turn taking, fine motor skill, problem solving, practicing reacting to winning or losing points as a good sport.
How to play:
Start by drawing a grid of dots, at least 4 x 4. The bigger the grid, the longer the game!
Players take turns using a line to connect two dots. One line, then the next player’s turn. It can be helpful for each player to use a different coloured pencil.
If a player completes a box on their turn, they put their initial in it, and get an extra turn to make a line. This may repeat several times, a player may win several boxes in one turn. In the example below, blue completed the box, so they have included their initial, and made an extra blue line. It is now green’s turn.
Once the board is complete and no more lines can be drawn, count the number of boxes each player has. The most boxes wins!
What to encourage:
Using kind words with other players
Thinking about what the other player might do based on our move
Thinking about how other players feel when they win/don’t win
How many players: Between 2 and 6 works best
Skills Targeted:Fine motor skill, pencil skill
How to play:
Start by drawing as many dots as there are players, plus one more (e.g. 3 players = 4 dots, 5 players = 6 dots). The dots can be anywhere on the page!
Each player chooses a colour. On their turn, they can draw a line in their colour. Their line can either:
Connect 2 dots to each other
Connect 1 dot to itself
However, the dots can only have 3 lines coming off them at any point.
E.g. Adding a loop here is allowed:
But not here because there would be 4 lines:
Once the player has added their line, they place a dot anywhere on the line they like. Then the next player makes a move following the same rules.
Lines may never cross each other.
At some point, it will become impossible to add a line following the rules. The last player that drew a line wins!
In this example, blue made the last possible move so they win! No other lines can be made as every dot except 1 is full (3 lines), except for one. The player cannot make a loop touching that one as it already has 2 lines.
What to encourage:
Drawing lines without lifting the pen
Planning path before drawing it
Squeezing through small spaces
Players might find it helpful to put a cross through dots once they are full, to make it easier to see where is possible.
Pass the picture
How many players: As many as you like! Best with 4+ players
Skills Targeted: Pencil control, visual motor integration, critical thinking, handwriting
How to play:
Begin with as many squares of paper as there are players. Each player gets a piece of paper.
The first player draws a picture. The more complicated the picture, the trickier the challenge will be! They pass it to the next player.
The next player writes down what they think was drawn, and places their square over the previous. They pass it on.
The next player draws what is written on the square they see. They place their picture over the writing.
Play continues until we reach the last person. Then we compare the first picture, with the final piece of writing or picture, to see how close the message is!
What to encourage:
This game can be used to practice flexible thinking! First play it trying to make the pictures and words as close as possible. Then play it trying to branch out as much as possible, trying to make the end result as far from the original as possible!
If players find this challenging, using coloured pencils can make it a little easier.
It may be helpful to draw lines for players who are writing.
If you and your child are looking for a really challenging pencil and paper game, this is a detailed explanation of pencil and paper battleships, fantastic for a critical thinking and spatial thinking challenge! http://www.papg.com/show?1TMC
Ever wondered how you can mentally and physically occupy your child for hours on end? KICKbricks are the answer!
Playing with blocks is a common childhood experience and promotes integrated learning across a variety of different developmental areas (Phelps & Hanline, 1999). KICKbricks are a fantastic and incredibly versatile construction toy that can guarantee hours of fun, whilst also helping to develop a range of physical, mental and social skills. KICKbricks are large, soft foam blocks that can be built into whatever you like then pushed down again. Being lightweight, they are suitable for most ages and will not hurt if they come crashing down on top of you. They come in a range of colours and are an awesome addition to any family and have a range of benefits.
Benefits of KICKBricks
Whether your child prefers to play alone or with others Kickbricks are appropriate for either situation. Object related activities like building blocks can promote social and imitative behaviours (Brown and Murray, 2001; Stahmer et al., 2003; Lee et al., 2017), as well as joint attention and communication with another person (Iannaccone, Savarese & Manzi, 2018). It can also help to develop foundational social skills like turn-taking, waiting and sharing (Raising Children, 2017), as well as assist in developing cooperative play and teamwork skills.
The KICKbricks can also be used to help develop both fine and gross motor skills. For younger children, the wide bricks can assist with developing grasp and manipulation skills, spatial awareness, and muscle strength and coordination (Achwal, 2018) to place the blocks on top of the tower. For older children, challenges can be used with the bricks to create targets for throwing or kicking practice and can be used as obstacles to balance along or jump over.
Kickbricks are also a fantastic way to stimulate the mind and help build cognitive skills. For younger children, the blocks provide opportunities for using creativity and imagination for object substitution (Achwal, 2018). Whereas for older children, the multicolour element of the bricks is also a great way to develop visual perceptual skills by creating patterns and designs, as well as building executive functions like planning, sequencing and problem-solving skills (Achwal, 2018; Iannaccone, Savarese & Manzi, 2018).
Allie Deayton Occupational Therapist
Phelps, P., & Hanline, M. F. (1999). Let’s play blocks! Creating effective learning experiences for young children. Teaching Exceptional Children, 32(2), 62-67.
Iannaccone, A., Savarese, G., & Manzi, F. (2018). Object use in children with autism: building with blocks from a Piagetian perspective. In Frontiers in Education (Vol. 3, p. 12). Frontiers.
Brown, J., and Murray, D. (2001). Strategies for enhancing play skills for children with autism spectrum disorder. Educ. Train. Ment. Retard. Dev. Disabil. 36, 312–317.
Stahmer, A. C., Ingersoll, B., and Carter, C. (2003). Behavioral approaches to promoting play. Autism 7, 401–413. doi:10.1177/1362361303007004006
Lee, G. T., Feng, H., Xu, S., and Jin, S. J. (2017). Increasing “object-substitution” symbolic play in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Behav. Modif. doi:10.1177/0145445517739276
Emotions! Everyone experiences them every single day.
Emotional regulation is the ability to manage emotions and behaviour to match the demands of the situation. This includes the ability to calm yourself down when you are upset, resist impulses, adjust to changes and handle frustration in a socially appropriate way. These skills allow children to direct their behaviours towards a goal.
What skills are involved in emotional regulation?
Identifying specific emotions you are feeling
Identifying specific emotions in others
Being able to start and continue to work towards goals even if feeling anxious
Ability to have intimate conversations
Staying strong when someone is pressuring you
Being able to manage your own emotions
Being able to manage other people’s emotions
Resisting going over the top with positive emotion
Children begin learning emotional regulation from a very young age. In some children, their emotions are huge, strong and explosive. In others, they have a slow build up before exploding over something small that tipped them over the edge. No matter how our kids experience emotions, it is important that we help them learn to handle their feelings and find ways to express these appropriately.
There are times throughout development where our brains experience emotions more intensely – this is due to hormones! Did you know that the brain experiences these hormones first around the age of 2 (think terrible two’s!), and then again around puberty (and think moody teenagers!)
People often believe that emotional regulation needs to be taught when our kids are young – teach them the strategies early and they will carry these through life. It is definitely important to teach our children how to manage and regulate their emotions early, but it is never too late! Research shows that major changes in the brain occurs during adolescence, and we can support them to develop healthy emotional regulation strategies that they can carry throughout adulthood
How can we help our older kids to develop healthy emotional regulation strategies?
Modelling specific strategies, they can use such as positive self-talk, meditation, taking a break and exercise, talking about it with a good listener
Create a safe space to talk and provide a warm, responsive relationship. Talk about what emotions are and what purpose they serve
Structure the environment where possible. Try not to set them up to fail where there are multiple triggers
Try to see the world from their point of view – understanding how they feel and why is so powerful
Use visual supports
Develop your own empathy response and use it with them
Give them the opportunity to practice their new skills and monitor/reinforce progress, even if it is something small
Teach that positive emotions also need to be regulated not just negative emotions
Remember not to be dictated by culture/gender bias – the idea that boys shouldn’t cry and girls are more emotional is outdated
If you have any concerns around your child’s emotional regulation development, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 9404 0338 to see if we can help.
A NooK is a modular sofa designed to be played with! The NooK can be used to foster the imagination of children while developing their gross motor skills, construction play skills and executive functioning skills. The NooK is made up of 10 individual pieces which can be moved and balanced to make endless fun creations.
How can I use my Nook?
NooK’s are extremely versatile and can be used to make countless combinations. The NooK is beneficial to promote imaginative play, constructive play, executive functioning skills and gross motor skills. Moving the NooK is also great heavy work for children who need a little bit of extra support to regulate their bodies.
Imaginative Play The NooK fosters imaginative play by enabling children to create their own worlds. Imaginative play is important for child development as it promotes confidence, self-esteem, communication, and the beginnings of social awareness.
Construction Play The NooK helps kids think ‘outside of the box’ by using different shaped and sized cushions to create what they envision in their heads. Construction play helps develop executive functioning skills such as problem solving, planning, task initiation and decision making. It also promotes resilience and independence.
Prepared by Georgia Goodwin, Occupational Therapist
School takes up quite a big portion of the day and plays such a big part in the lives of children and their families. Sometimes, it can be difficult to fit in other activities and to encourage interaction with our surroundings outside of technology before and after school, however, engaging with our environment and taking time out to engage kids in different activities can assist with a child’s regulation, not to mention it can also further develop a wide range of gross and fine motor skills, sensory interaction and behavioural skills. Some tools and strategies can also be utilised to help assist with organizational skills and transition to and from school.
Listed below are some creative and simple ideas for activities and strategies for before and after school to assist with regulation, development of skills and organization:
This can assist with routine and make transitions between tasks and steps easier
Schedules can be written, visual, or a mixture of both
It might include steps required for dressing sequence, packing our bag, morning routine, etc.
Timetables outlining what is happening during the day or week can also assist those little ones who like knowing what is happening and what to expect after school or the following day!
Jumping and Crashing
Jumping outside on a trampoline can be super regulating for little ones and allow them to get out wriggles – this could be useful for both before and after school
Little trampolines in the house are also a fun way to get out wriggles and energy without needing to go outside – accompanied with a crash mat or large cushion/bean bag to jump on to is even more fun and can provide pressure input!
Riding a bike is a really good way to work on gross motor skills and to interact with nature – it is a fun activity to do as a family as well!
Even just sparing 10 or 15 minutes to go outside and ride around the street after school is a fun way to end the day
If you are close to school you could even ride the bike home or to school in the mornings!
Try getting to school 10 or 15 minutes early so your child can run around and play on the play equipment to get out energy before going into class for a morning of learning
This may help them to concentrate and regulate more readily once inside and can also help with the transition into school without rushing around beforehand!
The many activities and games possible on a playground can provide vestibular and proprioceptive input which some movement-seeking kids can really crave
Try colouring dried rice and pasta and placing in a tub with items hidden within for your child to explore and locate
Use kinetic sand, play dough, paint to work with a variety of different textures – this is a fun way to play in the morning in the lead up to school and also to wind down in the afternoon
Drawing and Colouring
Drawing is so beneficial for a wide variety of skills and is an activity that does not require many resources!
Sit down with your child and have a go at drawing different shapes and objects to work on pre-writing skills or to further develop fine motor, visual motor and creative skills!
Having some time out to focus on what is happening in the given moment can be so calming and therapeutic
Try doing this after an energy-packed day or as a way to prepare for the day ahead
Playing “dead fish” can be a fun and motivating way to keep the body still whilst encouraging thinking about the “here and now”
This can also be through meditation, colouring, yoga poses and activities and so much more – even sitting with your child and listening to breathing, music or guided meditation can be really beneficial and assist with calming the mind and body
For more information around these activities and for even more ideas to cater for your child’s specific needs, contact Building Blocks Therapy to schedule in an appointment!