Here are 6 of our therapist’s favorite strategies to help!
We’re well into October now and for some children the honeymoon period of the new school year is over and the reality of the demands day in and day out are settling in. For some children, they are cruising along, but many of our families at Kid PT are telling us that their kids are starting to struggle.
Our therapists at Kid PT are here for you and we wanted to bring you some strategies to try at home. If these strategies are not enough and you can’t figure out the right solution for you child, reach out to us and we can give you the individual help that you need.
Here are our therapist’s top 6 strategies to help your children focus in the classroom. Try one or combine a few to find the best match for your child. Additionally, a strategy may work for a while and then you’ll need to mix it up with another one. So even if you find a good fit strategy, keep the list handy to try another one out in the future!
Use a fidget toy
A fidget toy is a small item that you can play with to help you concentrate or relax. It often looks like a stress ball, but it doesn’t have to be. Fidget toys can be things like rubber bands, coins, or other small objects. We have had children at the office complain of fidgets making them look different than other kids- in cases where the child is concerned about how the item looks, try to find an everyday object like one listed above that can serve the purpose.
There are many different types of fidget toys. Some are specifically designed for people with ADHD (like the Spinner Cube), while others can be used by anyone who needs an easy way to focus or become more mindful.
Some fidgets can be noisy, which doesn’t work well in the classroom setting so check out this list of silent fidgets to help you find a good solution for your child.
Find a special seat cushion or chair, such as a Dyna Disc
Many of our kids at Kid PT have had success using a seat cushion, yoga wedge, or Dyna Disc on a chair. Some kids have a hard time staying still because their brains are too active for sitting still for long periods of time (which can also explain why some kids bounce around so much). If this is your child’s issue, try placing a seat cushion or dyna disc on their chair at school so that they feel more comfortable sitting still for longer periods of time.
Other children have trouble keeping an upright posture all day long due to low tone, hypermobility, or core weakness. These children could potentially get more fatigued using a dynamic cushion all day, but may do well with a yoga wedge on their chair to support a more upright posture with less of the effort to get there.
Use a weighted or compression vest underneath clothes
Did you know that deep pressure can be a grounding and calming feeling?
We can use that to help children focus!
Two ways that we can give children deep pressure
A weighted vest or compression vest is an effective, noninvasive way to improve attention and focus. Weighted vests are usually made of nylon or cotton and contain small weights that are distributed throughout the vest to create a light sensation against the body. The person wearing the vest feels like they’re carrying a backpack full of books. These vests are often used as a treatment for children with autism, as well as other disorders such as ADHD/ADD.
Compression vests work similarly, and the deep pressure feeling is felt by the child every wiggle and move they make.
Wear headphones for blocking distracting sounds
Many of our kids at Kid PT have told us that their classroom can be really loud!
Headphones that cover your child’s ears can be a multisensory approach to help your child focus in a classroom. Not only do these headphones help tune out access noise in your child’s environment but the soft cushions along the heads can provide deep reassuring pressure to your child’s head which can allow for improved self-regulation and attention.
Remember what we said above about deep pressure- headphones are another way to give deep pressure while blocking out noise at the same time.
Strategic snack time
Snack time can be more that just a time for our kids to fill their bellies. Sensory input includes all the senses of your body, including taste. Also, to swing back to that deep pressure concept again, we can even get that through the jaw. Crunchy, chewy, and sour are the most regulating and alerting forms of oral input. Providing a crunchy snack such as cheese crackers or chewy foods such a dried mango can provide regulating oral input before heading into the school day. Sour foods such as lemons can help increase alertness and arousal in children who may seem disengaged or low energy.
Break up classwork with structured sensory breaks.
As adults, we give ourselves sensory breaks throughout the work day. We get up for a cup of coffee (read stand up and walk, chat with a colleague, and then drinking caffeine), we may grab a piece of gum or a mint (altering! deep pressure to the jaw!).
Just like adults need breaks between work periods, so do children. Kids need breaks much more frequently than adults do, often to move their bodies and get outside. Breaking up large tasks into smaller parts with breaks in the middle can be a great way to keep kids on task.
Our Kid PT therapists hope that these strategies will give you a starting point to help your children develop the confidence and skills to succeed at school. If these strategies aren’t enough for you and your child, reach out to us. Let’s dig deeper together, identify the source of the problem, and find solutions that will work for your child.