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Back to School Series

With the school year in full swing, we have compiled four strategies to support this season of change and growth in your children. The transition from summer to school can be challenging at times. Below you will find various tips, activity ideas, and ways occupational therapy can play a part in building routines, providing sensory support, and more.

Visual Schedules

Visual schedules are a great way to empower and encourage your child to build their independence. Creating a written schedule that is specific to your child’s daily routine is a helpful resource to decrease the ambiguity and overwhelming feelings that school might bring up. One helpful tip when creating a visual schedule is to make it interactive. For example, print out or create the daily checklist, laminate it, and use stickers or dry-erase markers to check off each item as they go. Click this link for a free visual schedule template.

Brain Breaks

Our sensory systems work together to allow us to successfully navigate and interact with the world around us. When our sensory systems are not functioning appropriately it can cause dysfunction in our everyday tasks. Incorporating brain breaks can help your child feel re-energized and increase their focus and attention when an extended period is spent learning or engaging in tasks that require increased cognitive effort. Click here for a list of brain breaks

Sensory supports for seated tasks

When engaging in seated activities, do you notice your child fidgeting or having a difficulty remaining still? This may be a sign that your child needs movement or sensory stimulation. Sensory tools and/or brain breaks provide a physical outlet for the energy and sensory input a child may be seeking. There are a plethora of options that engage various sensory systems to help your child regulate their mind and body. Some of these include handheld fidgets, chewable fidgets, various seating options, crunchy snacks, water through a straw, and heavy work (think gross motor, pushing, pulling, and lifting movements).

After school routines

When your child comes home from school, are you witnessing meltdowns? Acting out of character? Demonstrating defiant behaviors? Consider all of the demands that are placed on kids throughout the day. At the end of the day, their minds and bodies are exhausted from trying to hold it all together during the school day. These behaviors may be suggestive of the need for opportunities to regulate themselves. Below are some strategies that you can use to help your child regulate their bodies, refocus their minds, and set them up for success in the evenings

  1. Snacks - crunchy or chewy snacks provide children with proprioceptive input to the jaw which is more calming for the body

  2. Calming activities - a space for your child to sit and participate in a regulating activity unique to their sensory needs

  3. Visual schedules - allow your child to see what they are going to do and when breaks can happen

  4. Movement - child led play outside provides so many opportunities for sensory input that is regulating and calming for your child

  5. Save your questions - ask the “how was your day” questions later in the evening to avoid overwhelming your child. Give them time to decompress and lead their after school play

Home-based occupational therapy can support you and your child in implementing these strategies in your home and provide personalized recommendations. Home based occupational therapy can also communicate with your child’s IEP team, provide documentation about strategies used in the home, provide letters to teachers/support staff on recommendations, and build strategies and tools your child can use at school.

If you are interested in learning more about in-home occupational therapy email Calli at

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