Finding the Right Tools to Transition Back to School
Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L
Transitioning back to school is never easy, but it presents even more difficulty for our children with sensory processing concerns. Daily routines change and the laid-back summer attitude switches gears into the high energy of the school regime. Some children thrive on going back to school because of re-establishing more of a daily routine. But often times it is up to the parents, therapists, and teachers to figure out and re-establish how to get our children back into the "just right" state needed to be successful in the classroom for an entire day. This month we are going to touch upon some ways to help at home in the early weeks of heading back to school.
Getting out the door in the morning is typically the most difficult for a household. Therefore, making sure you are choosing 1 or 2 strategies that can be easily integrated into the morning routine is ideal. And if you already have an established sensory diet or home program, work with your therapist to figure out which ones are best for you to use.
For the child who needs a little 'gas' to rev up their systems try integrating some alerting activities and foods into their morning. For these children, not only is it frustrating to the parent to always have to help out with each step of the process, but letting them get dressed and plop until the bus arrives is not getting their bodies or brains ready for the day ahead. So, as they get out of bed have them do a few stretches, jumping jacks, or even bunny hops to the bathroom to get a little cold water to wash their face (what better way to wake up!) Transition around the house with fast walks, jumps, skipping or galloping. If possible, let you child be the one to head outside and get the morning paper at the end of the drive or take the outgoing mail to the box. Use fast tempo music during the morning routine, not only does it help move the body a bit faster, it also helps to put everyone in a good mood. If time allows, throw in a quick game of Simon Says as you prep breakfast and lunches. Allow breakfast to include some 'alerting' items. Such as, a nice cold glass of cranberry juice, a bowl of fruit, or cold cereal.
For the child that wakes up with a high reserve of energy, use those heavy work, proprioceptive activities to get his or her systems calmed and regulated. Transition from room to room with animal walks (bear, crab, etc) and wheelbarrow walks. Prior to getting dressed, provide deep massage or a brushing program to calm their bodies down. Keep the morning routine as calm as possible, with lights low and quiet music or background noise. Warmer foods, as well as chewy and crunchy foods are ideal at breakfast, such as oatmeal, chewy bagels, or apples. Also, present their morning drink through a straw. Wearing a backpack, appropriately filled, is another great way to provide a calming, deep pressure to the body.
It probably goes without saying that another key component to help with these morning transitions is organization and calmness of the household. Have whatever you can prepared the night before to alleviate the morning "rush", allowing more time in the morning to get your child ready for the demands of school. In addition, staying calm helps to keep your child's system in the 'right' state, decreasing the chances of either shutting it down or revving it up.
Start this school year out on the right foot by choosing the perfect tools in your toolbox to get your children up and going this Fall.