Sensory integration, structured activities help children cope with change

Posted at 6:40 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 19:48:29-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Parents may be reaching their limits right now, working from home and trying to keep up with distance learning. Kids are struggling too with all of this change and lack of structure.

“When we have a really big change like this happening there tends to be those fluctuations in emotions and behavior,” said Dr. Cassie Reeve, Psychologist at Children’s Behavioral Health.

Dr. Reeve said the biggest thing we can do for our kids right now is provide structure and consistency.

“Finding a general time we’re expecting kids to be going to bed even though these circumstances are what they are,” Dr. Reeve said. “And trying to find a time to wake up in the morning. Getting dressed, not hanging out in pajamas all day.”

You should also set times for play and distance learning at home.

Giving your children some say in their learning environment can go a long way.

“We might have this vision in our head,” said Elizabeth Lilla, Occupational Therapist and Owner of Metro Stars Gymnastics. “I’m going to set up this work station. My child is going to sit there and my child is going to do all of their work. Then I’m going to turn it into the teacher and everything is going to be great. But that’s just not how we function in our day to day. They should have some options. Would you like to sit on this bean bag chair or would you like to sit at the kitchen table? Maybe they need to change positions every subject.”

She said sensory integration activities can help too. She recently held an online class demonstrating some brain breaks like rolling an exercise ball down your child’s back.

“That specific activity is providing some input to the child where their body is in space,” Lilla said. “So by kind of grounding them to the earth they start to feel more calm. They get some of that input to the muscles and tendons.”

Energizing activities, such as jumping jacks or pushing a heavy laundry basket in a relay race, she said help children focus on learning.

“After doing that heavy work, there’s actually some neurological changes to the brain that allow them to sit down, stay focused and feel grounded on their work,” Lilla said.

The sensory integration class is posted online as a part of Metro Stars Gymnastics video library.

Children may not care for some of these brain breaks, and that's okay. Lilla said just do what works for your family. But if nothing seems to be helping tantrums or behavioral issues it may be time to seek professional help from a counselor, occupational therapist or play therapist.

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