Is your child struggling in school? Are you overwhelmed with well-meaning advice from family and friends? Or, your favorite occupational therapist’s blog? [Guilty as charged…}
AZ+A takes a unique approach when helping children succeed in school. Whether they’re learning in a physical or online classroom, our occupational therapists help identify triggers or behaviors that can result when a child is falling behind in school.
By looking beyond the child’s grades, we can uncover what hurdles they are inwardly trying to clear or avoid. Once the therapist, parents, teacher, and child understand where and why they are getting tripped up, we can find academic success pathways.
Here are four ways to get children ready to learn:
#1. Sitting still is challenging for most of us! Sitting at a desk or a kitchen table to work on homework that you don’t understand can be impossible for a child struggling in school.
Learning involves both the brain and the body. When we attune to the young learner’s needs sitting in front of us, it’s often clear that movement is the answer. Using movement as part of the learning process increases kids’ ability to overcome stressful situations and builds resilience for difficult experiences in the future.
Our Study Partners sessions in the clinic or via teletherapy often begin with time in the playhouse with sensory gym equipment. A few minutes of large motor work helps the child transition to school activities with greater ease. Plus, they are engaged in the learning process.
It’s not an instant flip of a switch. When attention spans begin to wane, or frustration begins to build, perhaps they’ve hit one of their internal hurdles and could use a few moments of movement to help them move past it. Attuned bodies equal attuned minds!
#2. Nurturing and positive relationships with parents, teachers, and peers expand students’ engagement in learning. Following the child’s lead and attuning to their interests and needs support them during the learning process. A child’s social and academic success is inspired by close parent-child and teacher-child relationships.
When additional support is needed, AZ+A’s Study Partner program gives the child a positive relationship away from home and school. Our program also supports parents by alleviating some of the stress when mom and dad are also teachers, playmates, etc. Having a Study Partner boosts the self-esteem and interest in school for students who have been struggling.
#3. It’s difficult for parents to keep themselves, their families, and households organized, especially if they work from home with kids learning from home. Phew – that’s a lot to handle! It’s even more difficult to believe that children can learn to stay organized.
It’s not an easy task, but helping kids understand that being organized can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed or giving up. Keeping homework assignments and school materials together and tidy is a good start for kids who struggle with late or missing assignments, poor study habits, or anxiety about schoolwork.
Organization also includes keeping track of emotions and thoughts. Self-regulation and emotional regulation are superpowers for children with academic or social delays. A regulated child (or adult) is ready for the challenges that lie ahead. AZ+A helps children and families learn regulation skills.
#4. Fun motivates kids to learn in greater measure than anything else. It’s easy to forget that, especially when a child struggles in school, doesn’t have any friends, hates to go to school, etc. This past year hasn’t been fun for students, teachers, or parents, but if we can find ways to infuse joy into the educational process, brighter days will follow.
The effects of the social and academic interruptions due to COVID-19 may impact children for the coming years. Without denying those effects, let’s remember both adults and children learn better when it’s fun.
- Be silly and add laughter whenever possible
- Play to the specific interests of the child
- Embrace your mistakes, it will help your children to do the same
- Happiness first! Children learn best when they feel happy and safe
“If we want students to experience more flow in school—if we want them to see school and learning as joyful—we need to rethink how and what we teach. No longer can schooling be primarily about creating workers and test-takers, but rather about nurturing human beings.” Steven Wolk, 2007