We are now well into a month of pandemic safe distancing. We are mostly home except for those heroes who are working at hospitals, grocery stores, restaurant take-outs, and drug stores. When we do venture out, we cover our faces and wear gloves like bank robbers. We have learned to watch the behavior of others as though each potential exposure could transform us into zombies (just watch World War Z…seriously). And, all the while, we are charged with working from home and simultaneously, teaching our children. For some of you, this is a dream come true. One parent recently told me that this period of time is the first she has has “full custody” of her child since she was born. She said that since the first days there have been doctors, nurses, early intervention specialists, therapists, special educators, and teaching assistants who have coached her about the best interests of her child. Now, it is her chance. All decisions are hers. Finally.
Other families are desperately missing the embrace of the specialists and the daily routine. They miss kissing their child goodbye for the day and again as they return from a full day of educational and therapeutic activities. The routines for the family are off-orbit and it feels unsettling.
So, regardless of your experience, please know that I am keeping you all in my heart and in my thoughts. Here are a few additional ideas to try at home.
These activities can be adjusted for individuals in high Phase I-Phase III
Gather items of a specific color on a “house-tour” or “yard-walk”. Place them in a box and then sort through them based on salient visual features. For example, “Let’s find all the red things that have round parts (red apple, red ball, red puzzle shape ), or, “Let’s find all the blue things that have a long, straight part (blue spoon, blue toothbrush, blue leggo).
Make a home phone-video of a routine, “starring” your child. Show it to the child before and/or after the routine. “Let’s watch how you are using your spoon. Here’s what you yesterday when you ate oatmeal. I wonder if you will try it this way again today? I am so impressed with the way you get oatmeal on the spoon and bring it all the way to your mouth”.
Help your child learn to think about time in a fun way. Use objects or images that are associated with routines of the day. Some will be “morning things” some, “afternoon things” and if appropriate, some, “nighttime things”. Ideally, use a different color container for each of the 3 parts of the day. Offer the child an item, and ask them to place it into the morning, afternoon, or nighttime box. If Phase early Phase II, use objects. Images can be used for later Phase II (above a CVIR score of 5) or Phase III. Salient feature language can be reinforced in this activity. “I have something here that is shaped like 2 legs with feet shapes attached. When do we put pajama bottoms on?” Keep in mind that some items like spoon, cup, toothbrush, may be placed in more than one box.
Some children may be watching YouTube or other media. Help build number concepts by keeping a tally of how many times a particular video is watched by placing a poker chip or other tangible through a color-highlighted slot. Or, place a clothespin on the edge of a box for each time watched. Then, at the end of the day or next morning, count the tangibles one-by-one and talk about the number quantity, as “many”, as “few” or as more/less than the previous video count. After a few days, and if the video changes, you can discuss which one is the favorite based on the greatest number of views.
Play “I Spy” by placing 3-5 familiar items in unusual places in the house or yard. Provide hints but describing salient visual features. “I spy something that has triangle ears and whiskers. It also has black & orange stripes. Can you find it?” This game can also be adjusted for a child trying to find all the objects of a particular group (find all the balls, find all the blocks, find all the letter b’s…) by using the “warmer-colder” technique. As the child approaches the general direction say, “warmer”. If they move further away, “colder”. You can also incorporate O&M directional terms like right/left, in front/behind, etc as the child moves or is moved through the space.
As I was writing this, I couldn’t resist thoughts for “while you are home” strictly for adults. These included but are not limited to:
….binge-watch “Say Yes to the Dress”, order 5-pound bags of M&Ms on Amazon, start cleaning out a closet but then get fixated on the diary you wrote in high school, conduct Google searches on all the people in your high school diary, listen to a trashy audiobook using headphones but make facial expressions as though you are learning quantum physics, have a second glass of wine…
But of course, that would be inappropriate so I won’t. I’m fine…fine.