We’ve been talking a lot about Praxis and functional tips this month and we wanted to easily explain this to you. Praxis is using something you’ve learned (how to do in theory) and applying it in a practical way, like brushing your teeth or getting dressed. Simple everyday tasks that we’ve learnt along our “life journey”, actually require complex planning and problem-solving skills to get done and achieve. For some of us this comes easily, for others they need an extra helping hand.
“The greatest gift you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence” – Denis Waitley
4 easy tips to help your child improve their independence with functional tasks
- Establish a routine for your child and stick to it. Lots of the children we see at OTFC respond well to consistent structure, which helps them to know what activity is next, reducing anxiety. Practicing tasks through repetition is key.
- Learn what your child’s strengths are, what motivates them and make sure these goals are achievable. Then a great idea is to set up, and stick to, a rewards system. Like the one pictured below. Rewards should be meaningful to you child which includes some type of ‘engagement value’ (i.e., play dates with an adult or friend).
- Visual schedules and cues are important. Break up the steps of tasks with pictures and visual prompts, to guide your child through the sequence of the activity. Then they can tick off each step, so they complete the task in the correct order.
- Regulation is key! Your child is going to make the most progress with functional tasks if they’re calm, attentive, and well-regulated. Guiding your child in a sensory-based regulation activity (i.e. jumping on the trampoline, swinging, crashing into soft surfaces) prior to practicing functional skills may just set them up for success!
A little helping hand from the team here at OTFC
Lots of the children we see at Occupational Therapy For Children have difficulty with organisational skills, planning and executive functioning (cognitive) skills, which means that doing simple, everyday tasks, like brushing teeth, packing a school bag and tying shoe-laces, can be extremely challenging.
Your Occupational Therapist can gather information which may determine why your child may be finding specific functional tasks challenging, and equip you both, with some personalised strategies to increase your child’s independence and engagement.
For example, your child may be having difficulty understanding, planning, and executing the steps of the task in the right order. Or they may find the sensory feedback associated with the task challenging to process (i.e., finding certain clothes too itchy, or the taste of toothpaste too strong).
Your therapist can also work during sessions to develop your child’s praxis, planning, problem-solving, sequencing and fine motor skills, as well as their emotional regulation and resilience, to improve their ability to engage in everyday tasks.
3 easy activities to try at home
1. Great tips for tying shoelaces: There are various methods and tricks to learning shoelaces. The key is that your child HAS to be motivated!
- Use medium length, flat laces and change one of the laces to a different colour (this will assist children who find it hard to distinguish and discriminate different objects).
- Research different methods of tying which the child may find easier to coordinate. For example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXjk8xAZz_w
- Focus on only the first step for first few weeks of tying the initial knot and practice until you child can complete this with their eyes closed. Then move on to the next step.
- Use storylines to help your child to remember the steps. The tree at the bunny is a great one. Please see the video below for explanation: https://youtu.be/x24kx9_ddRA
- Practice with laced shoes on the weekend to minimise your child’s anxiety regarding time pressures and running late for school.
- Find anything that will motivate your child to learn (themed or light up shoes).
2. Easy tips for dressing:
- Always practice dressing in front of a full-length mirror – this will support some of our children who have difficulties with body awareness and bilateral control.
- Start practicing with loose, “weekend” clothing that are easier to put on and off, that your child is motivated to wear.
- Start by laying out clothes for your child to put on in order.
3. Helpful tips for brushing teeth:
It’s firstly important to find out WHY the child is finding brushing difficult! Here at OTFC our Occupational Therapist can help you to work out whether your child is finding the planning or sensory aspects (or both) difficult.
- Use neural, non-minty paste (they are available at chemists).
- If your child is really finding the texture of toothpaste too overwhelming, try brushing without paste and attempt to desensitise their mouth until they are able to work up to neural paste.
- Trial electric toothbrushes – surprisingly, lots of the children we see find the vibration and pressure easier to tolerate.
- Trial using singular finger toothbrushes.
- Use a neutral flavour mouth wash or rinse.
We hope these tips were helpful and we look forward to you reaching out with any questions if you have them.
Occupational Therapy For Children, we’re putting the pieces together helping your family achieve their goals and dreams.
OTFC is a South Australian clinic-based service that is centrally located and services children and adolescents from birth through to 21 years of age both locally and nationally. Dedicated to providing a client focused approach where children and families feel validated in their concerns, supported in difficult times, encouraged to be proactive and inspired to facilitate change.