Q&A – How Can Therapists Help Parents Implement Therapy Activities At Home
By: Mae Wilkinson, Editor: Autism is Not the Boss
Q: Why aren’t more parents engaged in supporting therapy goals at home?
A: I think most parents would like to be more engaged in supporting their children’s therapy goals at home, but they either don’t know how, or they get discouraged after repeated unsuccessful attempts.
Q: You mentioned that parents would like to participate, but get discouraged after repeated unsuccessful attempts. What can therapists do to make therapy activities easier to implement?
A. I would follow the Parent as Teachers model for educational play that involves all family members. For example, we tried some of the bean bag toss exercises our son’s PT had given us to help with visual tracking, but it became very frustrating for our son. But when she suggested that we play Wii (or Nintendo or LeapFrog), the hand eye coordination just seemed to improve overnight. Of course, computer games need to be played in moderation, but we found something that could help our son and that all of us could enjoy as ‘quality’ family time.
Q: What about strengthening and balancing exercises?
Our OT prescribed yoga. Although the breathing exercise were calming for our son, some of the positions were quite difficult for him. (And for me, too! Have you ever tried to hold a plank position for a minute or even for 30 seconds?) But when we found yoga card game that allowed us to take turns based upon which card we pulled from the deck, the entire landscape changed. (It was the same for using Wii fit. My son found it hilarious when one of us was scored as a ‘couch potato.’)
Q: But what about academics? What can we ask parents to do to help their children practice reading?
A: Reading is often very difficult for our kids. The recommended daily reading goal of 60,30 or even 15 minutes per day can be excruciatingly conflict-filled, resulting in an even greater aversion to reading. We try to keep it fun by pretending that our son is not really reading…he’s singing. Our son likes music, so we pulled up a YouTube video with the lyrics of his favorite song. Then we gave him a microphone and turned on the computer’s web cam. Our son then made his own video by singing along with the song, reading the onscreen lyrics as he went. Each song is about four minutes long, so by completing four ‘videos’ per evening, we were over half of the way there for his suggested reading time. When we added a visit to the pop singer’s fan page or Wikipedia biography, we found that he was reading more than his daily requirement.
Q: What about inferences and comparisons?
A: One game that we love to play as a family is Apples to Apples, which was designed for children aged 7 and up. Each player gets five ‘red apple’ cards, which are nouns. Then the designated judge draws one green apple card, which is an adjective. Let’s say the green apple card is spooky. The players might put down red cards of ‘bad dream,’ ‘basement’ and ‘under the bed.’ The winner is the one who makes the best match (or the best argument for the best match) between the red and green cards. This is a game that can be easily replicated on flash cards.
Q: What about math?
A: Good question. My son loves math, but word problems that require more than one type of computation are difficult for him. So we picked his favorite pop star, and made up a story with pictures about how she planned a big party. First she had to take money out of the bank to add to the money that was already in her purse (addition). Then she had to go to the store to buy food and decorations (subtraction). Then she needed to decide how many cookies to give each guest if they each were allowed two cookies (multiplication) and finally, she had to determine how many tables were needed to sit all of her guests (division).
Q: That sounds doable. If you could summarize your advice, what are the top three suggestions you would give therapists for how to help families support therapy at home?
- Add relevance by tailoring the activity to the child’s interests
- Involve the entire family
- Have fun!
This Month’s Featured Author: Mae Wilkinson
We thank Mae Wilkinson for providing us with this Q&A for our newsletter.
About Mae: Mae is the mother of an 8 year old son with autism. She is an advocate, reporter and parent mentor who lives in St. Louis.