New School OT

Some professions are easier to understand than others. When someone says they’re a doctor, lawyer, or electrician, there’s no elevator speech to explain what they actually do. However, occupational therapist?? Yeah, insert your first impression guesses here.

In a nutshell, occupational therapists (OTs) help people live an independent, functional, and meaningful life in their environment. How we do that depends on the needs and values of the individual and family. Where it gets tricky is that purposeful activities vary from person to person.

Continue reading

Autonomy Class

A couple weeks ago, we drafted a whole post about boundaries, along with every other parenting content creator on the block. Patti and I went back and forth on what exactly we wanted to say because at this point, “boundaries” is quite the buzzword and we didn’t know if our post actually had anything new to contribute. Emotional boundaries, trust boundaries, “I won’t let you…”, bodily consent, and so on; each with their own nuance and circumstances.

At our kids’ age (toddler to early school age), most of the boundaries we put in place are for personal safety. And why do we have these safety boundaries, besides avoiding the obvious child negligence charge? So that our kids can learn age-appropriate autonomy without harming themselves or people around them. So let’s start from there….

You know when your child refuses to eat what you made for dinner? Or when they put on some mismatched getup instead of the outfit you laid out for them? They’re not trying to be difficult. What you are witnessing is their autonomy at work.

Continue reading

Course Notes: The Cerebellum

We have talked an awful lot about the prefrontal cortex and its significance to our performance in everyday life. But what about the back of the brain, like the cerebellum? Where’s the love for that neural region? Turns out that “little brain” found at the base of the skull right above the nape of neck deserves so much applause for what it does.

The cerebellum was the topic of my latest CEU course, so this post is going to get a little technical. But trust us, it’s worth the read.

For centuries, it’s been believed that the cerebellum was only responsible for unconscious motor movement, like balance and reflexes. Although that is true, it’s not its only job. Researchers are finding out more and more about how important and involved the cerebellum really is to our day-to-day operations and what happens when it goes awry.

With its Latin name meaning “little brain”, the cerebellum makes up 10% of the brain’s volume. However, it carries about more than 50% of all the neurons (nerve cells) in our entire body. With the more neural connections than any other part of the brain, the name doesn’t seem as fitting as it once did.

Continue reading

A Resilient State of Mind: Dealing with Failure

Part of a child’s job is to learn, and failure is an inevitable part of learning. Failure is also an inevitable part of building resilience. Resilience is the ability to face life’s stressors/challenges, learn from mistakes, and recover. It’s a big cause and effect game happening in your child’s brain.

Our kids fail all the time, especially when communicating what they want or need in the first years of life. As they get older and experiment with boundaries and connect information, they can organize all of that cause and effect and turn it into action. They figure out what works (asking for help) and what doesn’t (throwing a fit), learning and adapting with each new situation.

But somewhere in their early school years, our kids can start viewing failure as a bad thing, limiting their exposure to new experiences, encounters, and achievements. What caused this switch and how can we help our kids embrace failure rather than avoid it?

Continue reading

Growing the Executive Branch, pt. 2: Ages and Stages of Executive Functions

Executive function is a group of cognitive processes that help us analyze information to appropriately complete tasks or respond to social situations. A lot skills that make up this collective and many developing the moment your baby opens their eyes and see your face (Aww). It’s not until they enter their school years where cognitive struggles start to arise, like recalling info, adapting to changes, or having self-control. So how do we know what’s typical, what isn’t, and how to help? Well, let’s break it down by age.

Executive functioning is essentially an umbrella term involving cognitive control, and it can be divvied up into three main areas: working memory, cognitive flexibility (aka flexible thinking), and inhibitory (or impulse) control.

Continue reading