Resources compiled by Dr. Ali

Some of the most fun things to do in the winter with your family are winter sports! I know I always loved skiing down a snowy, snowy slope, surrounded by evergreen trees and breathing in that crisp fresh air. There really is nothing better! The beautiful, outdoor, family fun should be enjoyable and accessible for all families, and it is! Not only can able bodied individuals go skiing or snowboarding this winter, but families with parents or kiddos who have a disability can too. It turns out, there are adaptive sports programs all over the Northeast for you and your children to participate in and we wanted to give you the list:

New York:

Windham Mountain Resort, Windham, NY

The Adaptive Sports Foundation runs its program through Windham Mountain Resort in New York. They pilot a program that gives children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities as well as individuals with chronic illness the ability to experience winter sports and create a new, empowered identity for themselves! They offer both skiing and snowboarding lessons and instruction and most of their services are currently outdoor only.

Learn more here: https://www.adaptivesportsfoundation.org/winter-programs/

Pennsylvania:

Camelback Mountain, Tannersville, PA

Camelback Mountain is also a great option and not too far of a drive from Middlesex, Mercer, or Somerset counties. Their adaptive winter sports program is run through the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports and they offer skiing lessons to individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities as well from specially trained staff and volunteers. They specify that they want their skiers to become as independent as possible so they can continue to ski with friends and family if possible following instruction. 

Find out more here: https://www.centeronline.com/adapted-skiing

Whitetail Resort, Mercersburg, PA

Whitetail Resort houses another highly acclaimed adaptive winter sports program called Two Top Mountain. They provide year round education and training of sports to disabled veterans and any disabled child or adult who is interested in learning a new sport!  They state that they create a fun atmosphere and experiences which build confidence and self esteem for all participants. They offer both skiing and snowboarding in the Winter.

Learn more here: https://www.twotopadaptive.org/

New Hampshire:

Bretton Woods Ski Resort and Loon Mountain, NH

New England Disabled Sports, Bretton Woods Ski Resort and Loon Mountain, NH

This program has adaptive alpine skiing (downhill skiing), cross country skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Their website also shows all the different adaptive snow sport equipment options and explains how and why they are used!

Find more information about their program here: https://nedisabledsports.org/programs/winter-programs/

AbilityPLUS, Attitash and Wildcat, NH

This adaptive sports program offers Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, and snowshoeing. AbilityPLUS also offers special adaptive equipment, like a mono-ski and one-on-one instruction. They offer classes to individuals with physical disabilities and individuals with Autism. Their program venues can be found in Attitash, NH and Wildcat, NH.

Find out mor about their program here:

Vermont:

Mount Snow, West Dover, VT

Parents rave about Mount Snow’s adaptive skiing program for it’s specialized and affordable adaptive ski, snowboard, and snowshoeing instruction in the winter months.The organization that runs their Adaptive skiing and snowboarding program is called Adaptive Sports at Mount Snow (Adaptive at Snow for short). The program is run by a Special Olympics Ski coach and a Recreational Therapist certified in adaptive skiing with many volunteers who aid in facilitating the overall snow sport experience. 

Find out more here: https://adaptiveatsnow.org/

Smugglers Notch, Jeffersonville, VT

Smuggler’s Notch Adaptive Program also has great parent reviews with reports of caring staff members and an excellent program experience. They offer adaptive skiing and snowboarding single and group lessons that cater to first time learners or individuals who are more experienced at adaptive snow sports. They have the resources to provide two instructors to one student based on need and work with children and adults with both physical and cognitive disabilities. 

Learn more here: https://www.smuggs.com/pages/winter/kids/adaptive-programs.php

We hope all of our families have so much fun and stay safe while hitting the slopes this winter. As many of these programs state, skiing and snowboarding are for everyone and we hope that you and your child get to experience the fun of winter sports if your family is interested.

Info for adaptive programs found at the resources below. Click to read more recommendations for Adaptive Snow Programs:

http://specialneedstravelmom.com/blog/ski-resorts-adaptive-skiing-programs/

Here at Kid PT, we have compiled a list of our favorite toys that promote gross motor skills and development. We strongly believe that the effectiveness of exercise, movement, and learning is always amplified when combined with joy. As each child is unique, consider your child’s strengths and preferences to pick gifts that excite them. The age ranges listed below are recommendations not rules. Happy shopping!

0-6 months:

1. Love Every Play Kit Subscription: This is a great gift for parents and baby as each month you will receive age appropriate activities and well made toys to play with your child at each stage of development. 

2.Rainmaker: So much sensory fun with this toy with stimulating sounds and bright colors. This promotes visual motor skills, cause and effect, visual tracking, grasping, hands to midline, and overall movement.

3.Hands and Feet Rattles: This toy promotes bringing feet and hands together in midline, hand eye coordination, body mapping, and core strength and endurance.

 4. Oball with Rattle: The easy to grasp design is well suited for little ones as it promotes hands to midline, hand eye coordination, gaze stabilization, core activation, visual tracking, and motivation to perform gross motor skills of tummy time, rolling, sitting, and play on their backs.

5. Curious Baby Activity Cards: Another great gift for both parents and baby are these activity cards. They provide education on how baby is developing at each age and age appropriate activities to further promote development. The kit also includes high contrast image cards to promote newborn visual development and can be used to motivate visual tracking and tummy time. 

6. Baby Play Gym Activity Mat: A play gym provides babies with motivation to move and explore their environment.

7. Tummy Time Play Mat: This play mat includes various textures, high contrast images, crinkle material, and a removable mirror. These features promote movement, exploration of the environment, reaching with arms, weight shifts, pivoting, and floor mobility.

8. Tummy Time Floor Mirror and High Contrast Images: This mirror and picture display is another great addition to tummy time. It promotes motivation to stay in tummy time to develop strength and endurance in their core, shoulders, and hips while also developing vision, body awareness, gaze stabilization, and overall movement.

9.Suction Toys: Suction toys are versatile as they can be secured to the floor, mirrors, tables, feeding trays, or the bathtub wall. They are incredible motivators for our babies in tummy time, sitting, and standing by promoting reaching, hand eye coordination, cause and effect, weight shifts, and balance reactions. 

6-12 months

1. Sensory Tissue Box: This toy is filled with “tissues” of different textures, colors, and patterns. This is a great toy to promote movement especially while sitting and standing. As your child pulls the tissues out of the box, it develops their core and extensor strength, balance, weight shifts, and hand eye coordination.

2.  Stacking Cups: Gift this baby development staple as it promotes cognitive, fine motor, and hand eye coordination skills. It also promotes motivation while performing gross motor skills in tummy time, supine, sitting, and standing.

3.Climb and Crawl Set: These large blocks are versatile as they can be used for hand support in tall kneeling, pull to standing, and as obstacles to creep over. This targets strength and stability of the core and hip muscles. 

4. Drum Shape Sorter: This toy targets so many aspects of development including cognition, object permanence, hand eye coordination, and movement. This is a perfect height to promote upright sitting and is also a fun task to promote weight shifts, reaching, and balance in standing.

5.Little Balance Box: Standard baby walkers can be distracting and unsteady due to the wheels, which can impact the motivation to walk and also the quality of walking. This balance box was designed by a PT to provide a moveable, semi-stable surface to promote standing balance and supported walking. We often recommend using household items of chairs, boxes, and laundry baskets instead of standard baby walkers and this balance box was designed for just that. 

12-36 months

1. Curious Toddler Activity Cards: Fear not, Curious baby also provides development and activity cards for your toddler.  

2. Rody Horse: A great toy that provides proprioceptive and vestibular input, a full body workout, and also challenges sitting balance.

3.Pull Toy: This pull toy combines shape sorting, stimulating sounds, and gross motor fun. 

4. Squigz: Squigz are a clinic favorite from our babies to our school aged children. They are versatile as they can suction to walls, mats, windows, mirrors, hard surfaces, and other squigz. They challenge fine motor skills and can be incorporated in balance and obstacle course activities.

5. Corn Popper Push Toy and Bulldozer Push Toy: These highly motivating push toys make exploring the environment stimulating and fun. It challenges a child’s coordination to navigate the push toy forward and around obstacles and turns.

6. Walker Wagon: Have your little one push their toys around the block to promote strength and endurance with this fun wagon walker.

7. Broom and Mop Set: This fun pretend play set promotes core strength, coordination, and balance.

3-5 years

1. Balance Bike: Ditch the idea of using training wheels. Have your child learn how to balance and coordinate weight shifts by using a balance bike prior to training on a bike with pedals. 

2.Hedge Hog Balance Pods: These stepping stones provide countless opportunities for fun by using them with obstacle courses, pretend play, and exercise for the whole family. They promote strength, stability, coordination, and balance.  

3. Mini Basketball Hoop: This works on ball skills, hand eye coordination, visual motor skills, and can be incorporated into obstacle courses.

4. Mini Trampoline with Railing: Trampolines help with developing coordination, power, core and leg strength, jumping skills, balance, and endurance.

5. Rocket Launcher: This is a beloved toy at the clinic as our kiddos take such joy in launching the rockets as far as possible. This promotes single limb balance, strength, coordination, and jumping skills.

6. Pop the Pig: This is a great game to activate and strengthen the core while pushing down with both hands on the pig’s head. It can also be incorporated into obstacles and balance activities.

7. Climber and Slide Play Set: The climbing portions promote core and hip strength and the slide activates the vestibular system.

5 years and up:

1. BoBo Balance Core Trainer: This is a visual feedback device that can be connected to a phone or ipad that challenges core strength, balance, coordination, and visual motor skills. It is versatile as you can use it in varied positions with your arms, both legs, or just one leg. The challenges include mazes, snowboarding, sledding, submarining, and so much more.

2. Wooden Wobble Balance Board– The balance board challenges core and hip strength, coordination, and balance. You can also turn it over and it can act as a little bridge.

3. Hyperdash: Hyperdash has both individual or group player modes that challenge coordination, response time, and speed. 

4. Roller Skates: Roller skates are a great gadget that challenges coordination, endurance, balance, and single limb stance. 

5. Zoom Ball– This is a great activity that challenges visual motor skills, coordination, core strength, and postural control.

6. Bike: A bike is a classic toy that promotes strength, balance, coordination, and endurance. It is a great way to keep kids active throughout the year.

We hope these ideas were helpful to you and your family! If you have any favorites share them with us in the comments!

Learn how gratitude is more than just a good feeling.

Now that the leftovers in the fridge are all that remain of Thanksgiving 2021, let us not neglect the practice of gratitude for the next 11 months. Why is this important? Developments in research support that gratitude has significant psychological, physical, and social benefits. Gratitude has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, enhanced mood, and increased positive emotions and thoughts. It has also been found to be an effective coping strategy for caregivers or individuals who have experienced a traumatic event or life change. Physical improvements include reduced stress response and pain and improved blood pressure, glycemic control, immune response, and sleep quality. From a neuroscience perspective, gratitude increases the happy brain chemicals, regulates the stress hormones, increases activation of the bliss centers of the brain, and promotes cognitive restructuring. Research also suggests that adopting gratitude practices can promote better communication, empathy, healthier relationships, team dynamics, and workplace efficiency and productivity. Communicating thankfulness to others promotes relationship bonding and connection. With all this evidence, why would we not want to tap into this wellness super power?

Let us strive to cultivate a lifestyle of gratitude all year round with these practical tips:

  • Speak with Gratitude: This first starts with you by incorporating gratitude in your self talk. Complement yourself out loud with your strengths that are valuable and meaningful to you. Extend this to others including your loved ones, coworkers, and even physical things that make your life easier. The words you speak are important, so make efforts to align your speech with your gratitude efforts. This will enhance your self image as well as your personal and professional relationships.
  • Write a Thank You Letter-  Identify one or a few people who have significantly impacted your life, and write them a letter that explains how they have specifically contributed to your happiness, success, and well being. You can take this a step further and instead invite them out to lunch to thank them in person with quality time and delicious food. 
  • Keep a Gratitude Journal– Place a journal on your nightstand in which you list 3 things you are thankful for each morning or evening. Do an experiment and consistently write in your journal each day for 3 weeks straight and then see if you notice a difference in your mood, happiness, stress, and/ or sleep.
  • Meditate– One effective strategy to include gratitude in your day is by incorporating it in your practice of meditation, mindfulness, and/ or prayer. Preparing yourself with deep breathing, can improve your ability to focus on what you are grateful for. These practices can be more effective when combined together. 
  • Awareness: Actively look for things to be grateful for. Although the difficulties of life demand your attention, choose to see the good. This encourages your ability to be resilient no matter what life throws your way and helps you to see that even in the hardest times there are reasons to smile.

Have you found strategies that help you and your family to keep a focus on gratitude throughout the year? Share with us your strategies and tips below!

By Dr Ali and Dr Kat

Hey families! Are you looking for fun, outdoor activities in the changing weather that will challenge your kiddo’s motor system? Well look no further, because we have the most fun, festive, fall activities RIGHT HERE!

Rake the leaves: Help mom and dad out by grabbing a rake and raking all the leaves into one pile. Using a rake is a great gross motor activity because you have to use two hands together while turning your upper body to rake successfully (aka you have to use your core muscles). You need to do this while holding your lower body stable, working on balance while working on your kiddo’s core at the same time!

Jumping in the leaves: Leaf jumping is so much fun! Make sure that there is a big pile to jump in first, then run and JUMP into the leaves. You can try all kinds of jumps here: a traditional jump which includes a two footed take off and two footed landing, a leap where you start on one foot and land on the other foot, or a hop where you start on one foot and land on the same foot! There are so many possibilities.

The Squirrel Hop: Squat down low to the ground with your hands on the ground too (kind of like a frog). Now jump your hands forward and then jump your feet to your hands to hop like a squirrel (think like a frog jump!). Do this jump all over the house and make it even more fun by adding acorns to the mix and hide your acorns all around the house (but don’t forget where they are!)

Nature walk: Enjoy a family outing with a walk at a nature trail or local park. Encourage curiosity about wildlife and the plants you come in contact with by using nature bracelets. Simply wrap duct tape loosely around your child’s wrist with the sticky side facing out. When they find a leaf, flower, or small item that they are interested in, they can pick it up and stick it to their bracelet. (Make sure to educate your kiddos to stay away from poison ivy though.) By the end of the walk, let everyone showcase their bracelets. 

Apple Tree Balance Act: Draw the outline of a tree with chalk on your driveway or sidewalk and scatter “apples” on each branch that they have to gather. For apples, you can use real/ toy apples, pom poms, bean bags, leaves, small balls, or anything you find nearby. Have your child keep their feet on the chalk lines as if they are walking on a tightrope and keep both feet on the chalk as they squat to pick up the “apples.” Increase the challenge by having them do it backwards/ sideways, touching elbow/ hand to opposite knee with each step, or incorporating “apples” of varied colors that they need to sort into different baskets.

Do you have any other fall fun activities to share? Post them in the comments!

Why shouldn’t health literacy start early? Here at KidPT our biggest goal is to empower our families and kiddos to be independent in order to achieve their best lives. Health literacy is one of the building blocks necessary to achieve independence. By having kids understand their body: how it works, how it communicates to them, and how to manage their basic health needs; they will be prepared to be advocates for their health. Ideally, we want our kids to learn how to
live lives in which they prioritize their wellness and have the competence to make smart and informed health decisions in the future. We know from research that we learn best when activities are fun and engaging as our brains are more active. One easy way to start introducing learning about the human body is through story time. Welcome to our health literacy book corner. Below is a list of books for kids of various academic levels that are fun resources that give basic understanding of how our bodies work.

Listening to My Body by Gabi Garcia.
The first line of this book is “My body is my friend.” This sets the stage for the book’s goal to develop a relationship with your body. We meet a boy who teaches the reader how to listen to body sensations and emotions. He also provides strategies on how to manage these sensations and feelings to promote success with everyday activities.

Look inside your body by Louie Stowell
This is an interactive book as it is filled with flaps so that you can see inside the body and look at the different organs and parts. It provides various facts on how the organs work and what they do to all interact together to allow us to function as humans.

Give me back my bones by Kim Norman
This book introduces the reader to the names of the different bones of the body with a story of a skeleton whose bones got scattered through the ocean. It is appropriate for most ages as it includes fun rhymes and pictures.

100 Things to know about the human body by Alex Frith, et al.
This book is sure to feed a love for learning as it provides countless and in depth fun facts related to the human body with stimulating visuals. This is a perfect
book for our curious kiddos who love facts.

Shine-a-light: The human body by Carron Brown and Rachael Saunders
You and your child become explorers of the human body with this book. It is exciting because the reader uncovers hidden features under the skin of the
characters in the book. Shining a light behind the page reveals the bones, nerves, lungs, heart, vascular system, a baby in the womb, and so much more.
You and your little ones will enjoy discovering what is under the skin and how each organ helps us to function.

Little Doctor’s Children Book set: Cardiology, Neurology, and Cell Biology for Babies by Dr Haitham Ahmed

This series of books provides a great introduction to learning about the heart, brain, and the various parts of the cell. It is interactive to promote learning and
understanding. The neurology book is our favorite.

The Fantastic Body: What Makes You Tick & How You Get Sick by Howard Bennett
This is a funny and engaging reference book on everything related to the body. It provides in depth and easy to understand visuals to promote learning and
interest.

Cutie Sue Fights the Germs
Cutie Sue and her brother are sick. She will share with you what she learns about personal hygiene, how to handle doctor visits, and strategies to boost the
immune system and fight being sick. This is a great story to promote wellness and taking care of your body.

We hope you found some fun and interesting books in this list that you can read together with your children. Do you have any favorites to share with us? Comment below!

Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

Halloween is here and it’s the second year we are taking extra precautions because of COVID. It can be overwhelming for parents especially since there are a whole new set of provisions to take to get our kiddos ready for trick or treating. This
past year, we have had the opportunity to receive the COVID vaccine therefore the restrictions this year have been looser. But, it is still important to take the necessary steps to make this Halloween safe for everyone. We would like to share some tips and tricks to keep our community safe while also having fun.

  1. Wear a mask: Although the state mandate says people who are vaccinated do not need to wear a mask, it’s still safer to wear one regardless. A Halloween themed 2-ply mask is a fun way to stay safe! Children who are wearing costumes with a face covering should still wear a 2-ply mask to ensure safety as well.
  2. Handing Out Candy: Homeowners participating should also wear a mask. They can also individually hand out candy instead of letting children pick into the communal bowl.
  3. Social Distancing: It can be difficult to avoid overcrowding on Halloween, but you can take chalk to make markings every six feet leading up to your door to ensure social distancing is still taking place.
  4. Receiving Candy: Parents should always inspect candy and throw out anything that is open.
  5. Limiting Group Sizes: Keep your child’s group size to a few close friends as well as siblings.
  6. Hand Sanitizer: Also use hand sanitizer between visiting homes to reduce any risk.
  7. Where To Go: Travel in well-lit areas and plan your route ahead. To avoid any confusion, it’s also important to stay in a familiar area
  8. Stay Home: If you feel unwell, do not go trick or treating. It’s hard to miss out on the fun. But remaining safe and healthy is more important

And remember, come trick-or-treating and play some games at KidPT on Halloween for some fun!!!

It can be spooky when it is hard to understand information about your kiddo’s health. October is national health literacy month which advocates for individuals to have the knowledge and access to the information to make informed decisions regarding their health. We believe that knowledge is power, especially when it comes to health. Here are some tips to help optimize your health literacy so that you can make informed health decisions for you and your little ones.

Ask Questions

Always ask clarifying questions to the health professionals that provide care for you and your family. There is no such thing as a “wrong” question, especially if it equips you with knowledge that helps you better understand your health and treatment options. Health care providers have a responsibility to provide education in a way that patients of all backgrounds, cultures, and education levels can understand. If you are more of a visual learner, don’t hesitate to ask for a visual aide that communicates the information.

Do Your Research

It can be intimidating finding reliable information online nowadays. Remember you do not need to do it alone. You can ask your doctor where to start. Good resources usually include sites that end with .gov and most diagnoses have a national association that provides education, research, and local resources. Just remember information you find on the internet can be inaccurate, so discuss the findings of your research with your health care providers so that they can help to weed out what is not helpful.

Community Resources

Often the city or township that you live in will have resources to promote health education. Check out your local library as they not only provide books, but also free access to online databases so that you can search research articles. Often librarians are eager to share their understanding of research and point you in the right direction to helpful resources. Your library is also a great place to start because they can connect you with local agencies and organizations that provide support for your specific concerns or area of interest.

Join Support Groups

Advice from people who have lived in your shoes is priceless. It is impossible to truly understand a situation/ circumstance until you have lived it yourself. Support groups are important as they provide practical advice and tools from people who have experience, affirm that you are not alone, and foster a community that provides support and encouragement to the members. A herd is always more powerful than a lone ranger.

Don’t Panic

Although the process can be frightening and at times overwhelming, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. The full responsibility to diagnose and meet the health needs of your child is not on you.  Although it is good to be informed, don’t put the pressure on yourself to be your child’s health care provider. There is one thing you can do better than anyone else; Love and support your child. In order to do that well you need to take care of yourself. Your emotional stability will be a primary source of strength that they can rely on. Pursue a level of understanding that allows you to follow along in the treatment of your child, advocate for their needs, and breathe.

Its time for some fall family fitness fun!

We know it is only the beginning of October, but EVERYONE is already thinking about Halloween (we know you are)! There are so many fun, spooky, but also wholesome fall themes all around, like pumpkin EVERYTHING, little ghosts, the monster mash, and so so much more. Because this whole month seems to be filled with Halloween goodness, we wanted to bring you our Halloween themed exercises early, so you can practice them ALL MONTH LONG, all the way to October 31st! So let’s get Monster mashing, come on!

The Frankenstein Kick

Stand with your arms out straight in front of you, and walk forward while kicking your legs straight TEN times. Kick your hands if you can! Now you are doing the Frankenstein Kick!

The Zombie Drag

Lie on your tummy on the floor. Now drag yourself forward (aka do an army crawl) switching your arms 10 times! You can make this even harder if you pretend you are a Zombie who’s legs went missing and try to just move using your arms (it is so tricky).

The Pumpkin Roll

Sit on your pelvis, criss cross applesauce. Now hug your knees close to your chest with both arms. Roll toward one knee, forward, and then try to sit back up. If you keep going in the same direction, you will start moving in a circle, so try it 5 times to the right then 5 times to the left. If you can’t do this one it is okay it is very hard. An alternative position is the stable pumpkin: Hug your knees into your chest and hold for 10 seconds!

The Mummy Twirl

Pretend someone is wrapping you up in a whole roll of toilet paper (or actually use the toilet paper for this one and make it even more fun). Hold your imaginary or real toilet paper in between your arm and your side. Then twirl 10 times to the right to wrap yourself up tight like a mummy. Untwirl yourself by going 10 times to the left so you are not so dizzy (and not left mummified)!

The Flying Ghost

Okay, we are going for the scare factor on this one, kids. Jump as high as you can into the air, bring your arms up over your head, and say BOO! Repeat this 10 times in a row to be the SCARIEST ghost on the block!

And there you have it, ghouls! Have fun performing these exercises to let your inner monster out and to get in the Halloween spirit! Stay tuned this month for more Halloween themed fun and tips to last you the whole month of October. Have fun moving and grooving, and remember to keep it SPOOKY!

The school year has kicked off and is already off to a great start! Attending school is such a privilege because our kids are allowed to learn new things from both teachers and peers. One important topic for children to learn about in school and at home is neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is a concept which is inclusive toward conditions like Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Sensory Processing Disorder, and other diagnoses. The topic of neurodiversity advocates against stigmatization of those who are neurodiverse and helps to prevent the idealization of the brain and body developing in one specific way. Children need to know that the brain and body can develop in many beautiful and different ways, and that not everyone sees and experiences the world in the same way. 

Through education, children can learn to acknowledge, understand, and respect the differences in themselves and their peers. Many children face different sensory and motor challenges and every child has their own sensory motor strengths, and this is an essential part of life! Teaching kids about neurodiversity promotes understanding and helps to prevent the othering of neurodiverse populations. It also helps kids acknowledge and advocate for themselves or others if access to resources is difficult. It helps them understand that just because someone acts a little differently, moves a little differently, or talks a little differently than they do, that is okay and that they should be celebrated for who they are!

One GREAT way to help teach your child about neurodiversity at home is to provide access to books that talk about it in a way that makes them think about and understand the topic. So, without further ado, here are six children’s books that discuss various topics under the umbrella of neurodiversity so you and your child can learn and grow together:

  1. A New Alphabet for Humanity: A Children’s Book of Alphabet Words to Inspire Compassion, Kindness and Positivity by Leesa McGregor

This book utilizes 26 alphabet lessons to nurture social and emotional intelligence among children. It teaches them how to better humanity and work towards a better and brighter future. There are many different topics which are about respecting others, celebrating others, and learning about how to be the best person one can be!

  1. All The Way To the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel

This book is about the true story of Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins and her participation in the Capitol Crawl. This book discusses Jennifer’s drive to question America about why public spaces were not accessible to individuals with disabilities. It details HOW her activism helped lead to the formation and passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has gone on to benefit SO many Americans to this day (although more spaces and events need to continue to improve their accessibility).

  1. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca

This book is written about Dr. Temple Grandin. Temple was diagnosed with autism at a young age, and faced many challenges growing because many had expectations of her that were not true! No one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Using her powerful and unique mind, she started connecting with animals in a special way. Through this connection and her own perseverance, she became an amazing scientist and inventor, creating revolutionary  improvements for farms around the globe!

  1. Meet the Beaker Kids by Shanna Philipson

This is a social-emotional comic book that helps children learn to identify and regulate their behavior in response to outside stimuli. Many kids have trouble controlling how they feel inside in response to things going on around them and need a little support emotionally regulating! This is a great book to teach kids how to be aware of this in themselves and others, how to describe their feelings when they begin to feel overwhelmed, and also for educators interested to understand and support the neurodiverse children in their classroom.

  1. Some Brains: A Book Celebrating Neurodiversity by Nelly Thomas

This book helps to celebrate neurodiversity. It begins with the idea that neurodiversity is a normal, essential part of human biodiversity. Without Neurodiversity, we wouldn’t have great minds like Picasso, Einstein, or Greta Thunberg! This book encourages everyone to focus on our strengths and to understand that each brain is unique, which is wonderful!

  1. The World Needs Who You Were Made to Be by Joanna Gaines

This book follows a group of children as they each build their own hot-air balloons. It features the kids working together and using their own strengths to create beautiful things. It showcases the fact that we are all different and that the world is a better place when we use our differences and our unique skills to create bright, exciting things as a team!

As we are finally back to school, it is important to also acknowledge and address the stress that may accompany a return to the school environment. Any transition to a new setting can be stressful, especially for children with disabilities. The combination of an unfamiliar environment, interactions with peers, classroom expectations, unpredictability, reduced control, change of routine, challenging coursework, facing the unknown, or the impact of disabilities can signal the stress system (aka sympathetic nervous system)  in our children’s bodies. This is also known as the fight, flight or freeze system. When faced with fear, uncertainty, a perceived threat, or the anticipation of a stressor our bodies will increase the stress messengers of the body (aka adrenaline and cortisol). This results in changes in breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, posture, concentration, and also systems like digestion. As this is a normal response in the human body, sometimes it can be overactive and can impact a child’s ability to engage with peers and learning activities. 

As parents/ educators/ therapists, our desire is that our kids thrive and enjoy learning about our crazy, cool world with confidence and curiosity. A calm, confident, and aroused state is key to this success in the classroom and with peers. Luckily, our body always tries to have a balance (homeostasis) by having its own checks and balance system. 

Introducing: the de-stress system (aka parasympathetic nervous system) which counteracts the stress messengers and helps achieve a calm state. Successful strategies of managing stress often include techniques that help stimulate this de-stress system. Such strategies include slow/ controlled breathing, postural alignment, reducing arousing stimulus, adjusting exposure to stressors, calming touch, engagement in a soothing activity, spending time in nature, and consistent exercise. 

Below are some practical tips to incorporate these de-stressing strategies into your household routine for your children and the whole family!

Recommendations:

  1. Open and supportive communication 
    • Assist your child in processing events of the day, interactions they experience, and their emotions. Not only does this give you a glimpse of their day, but it also enhances child/ parent bonding and it provides your child with a safe and trusted place to process complex feelings and thoughts. One practical way is for each member of the household to discuss highs and lows of that day at a designated time. This is a good opportunity to model emotional regulation for your children, by showing how you as an adult also face highs and lows and move forward in healthy and productive ways. Decluttering the mind reduces stress.
  2. Deep breathing
    • Slow, deep, controlled breathing stimulates the de-stress system. One way to do this is to have your child place their hands on their stomach and breathe in through their nose so that their stomach fills and pushes into their hands. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then slowly blow the breath out through the mouth. You can make it fun by placing a toy on their belly and watch it move up and down as they inhale/ exhale.
  3. Yoga & Mindfulness
    • Yoga combines intense tactile input, exercise, and coordinated breathing which stimulates the de-stress system while also promoting strength, stability, and balance. One free resource is cosmic kids yoga on youtube which provides fun and popular, kid-specific themes. Mindfulness is another effective strategy to help stimulate a calm and self aware state that is ready to learn and engage with others. One resource that has a variety of mindfulness activities is the OT Toolbox blog (https://www.theottoolbox.com/mindfulness-for-kids/).
  4. Address Sensory needs
    • Kiddos with sensory processing difficulties may also experience stress if they are over or under stimulated. Some children may be sensory seekers or instead sensory avoiders. Depending on the child, they may need increased or decreased sensory input to promote a calm state of arousal. An idea to address the needs of sensory seekers is to perform handstands against a wall when they arrive home from school. When sensory needs are significant and impacting their success at school and home, your child may benefit from a consultation with an occupational therapist.
  5. Exercise and play
    • Research supports that individuals who engage in regular, consistent exercise have reduced baseline stress levels. There are also countless studies that support positive impacts of exercise on mental health, anxiety, and depression. After sitting in a classroom the majority of the day, it is important for our kiddos to engage in physically active play as this promotes their development and brain health.
  6. Engage in Soothing Activities
    • Every person is unique and has different preferences for calming activities. Some examples can be listening to or playing music, going outside in nature, art, reading independently, story time with a caregiver, or journaling. The key is to find an activity that promotes a calm state for that specific child.
  7. Reduce screen time
    • High levels of screen time are correlated with increased anxiety and depression with adolescents and teens. Although screen time can have a calming impact, take into consideration the lighting of the device and that screen time can be an isolating activity. 
  8. Stress education
    • There is an expanding library of educational resources for children to better understand their bodies and how it processes stress. Knowledge and understanding of how our bodies work can help kids interpret why they feel certain thoughts, sensations, or emotions and provide them with effective strategies to stimulate the de-stress system independently. Here are two youtube videos that provide stress education for the adolescent and primary school aged child. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Nf2Pzcketg (adolescent) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYFofKgBHxU (child)
  9. Adjust and limit exposure to stressors
    • Reducing activities that stimulate the stress system can also reduce your child’s stress level at school. Getting ready in the morning before school is a common example of a major stressor. So planning ahead, giving adequate time, incorporating routines, setting clear expectations, and setting clothes out the night before can eliminate the stress of rushing to get to the bus or school. Think about what are potential stressors for you and your child and how things can be adjusted to reduce that stressor.
  10. Have fun
    • The happy chemicals that our brains produce when we are enjoying what we are doing also counteracts the stress system. What brings your child true joy? Incorporate that into their routine to promote wellbeing.

This post is for education purposes only. Please seek medical advice from a licensed health care provider that directly manages your care.

Further reading on stress: