Putting the OT “Tools” to the Test!


See my blog about going to the Occupational Therapist and why.


Here are the tools we were given to help Jackson reach his full potential and help the school to be able to manage his day better. So far, works like a charm!


(1) Create Charts & Choices

The Challenge: Because Jackson is so visual, he sees EVERYTHING. He walks into a room and notices every tiny little detail. In fact, at home if there’s a fly in the house all I have to do is ask him where it is and he points it out instantly. It’s a gift. But, it can also be very difficult for a 3-year-old to start a task when he’s overwhelmed by so much stimulus.

The Solution: Organizing his day and giving him choices is a way to help with that.

The Tool: Creating charts and choices. At school, they will be photographing the activities he can choose from for his work cycle. When the work cycle starts, he will get to choose from these options which will be displayed on a tray. He can visually look at his choices and select one to carry around with him until the completion of that task.

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At home, we’ve started with the bedtime routine. Ironically, I actually already prepped a bedtime chart about a year and a half ago when Jackson was having trouble with going to bed and staying in bed. I printed everything out and had it ready to assemble but then he grew out of that phase and the chart pieces were abandoned in the laundry room (see above). It was nice to hear that our instincts were good though! Plus, we already had all of the supplies… sticky velcro, cardboard, glue, poster board and printed out clip art.

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We started using this a few nights ago and it has been working like a charm! At dinner time, I ask him “What do we end our day with?” He answers and sticks the bedtime and book on the chart. Then, we go to “What are we going to do right now?” And, he answers “eat dinner” and we put that on the chart. Then we have a discussion about his choices and he prioritizes and tells me what order to put the remaining items on the chart.

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The choices are based on what Kaimi and I determined are quiet / calm activities – coloring, puzzles, music time – and of course, necessities – brushing teeth, going to the bathroom, eating dinner, bath time, putting away his toys, etc… What I LOVE about this method is that it’s flexible! If we have extra time before bed or an activity doesn’t last very long, I can always add something to the chart. I can also print out more clip art if we need to adapt! For example, Jackson now wants to, very literally, “take a bath” – since the clip art shows a boy in the bath. We prefer showers. So, I think I’ll print a shower one out and replace it. Once this routine is – well, routine LOL – we will make a similar chart for his morning routine.


Jackson's favorite activity on the chart? Puzzle time!

Jackson’s favorite activity on the chart? Puzzle time!


(2) Provide Opportunities for Movement 

The Challenge: Jackson has a need for forward acceleration and movement. At school, if his need for this has not been met at home, he zooms from one activity to another instead of taking his time and doing it calmly.

The Solution: Providing “heavy work” and opportunities for him to get twisting and accelerating type of movement activities out of the way before / after going to school.

The Tool: The OT suggested we get a swing for Jackson and spin him. We haven’t tried this yet, but this might be one that doesn’t quite work for Jackson. From our own observations he’s not really that into twisting in that manner. We’ll see. A lot of these tools need to go through a “trial and error” period to see if it’s the right tactic for your child.

Another tool she gave us was suggesting we help him to accelerate through space and provide “heavy work.” Heavy work is anything that involves heavy resistance for the muscles and joints… in the morning Kaimi takes Jackson out to the garage and they do a quick “work out” – Jackson hangs from a bar, does push ups and other resistance type exercises with daddy before heading to school. After school, they go bike riding, push the car cart through the neighborhood, play ball, swim in the hot tub, etc… This has been great time for daddy/Jackson bonding but it also provides the movement that his body craves. 

(3) Help Build Rapport Between Jackson and his Teacher

The Challenge: Jackson’s teacher feels that her relationship with him is based entirely on redirecting him and wants to have a relationship based more on mutual understanding. She wants him to feel like he is cared for and loved.

The Solution: Provide opportunities for teacher and student to bond.

The Tool: The OT suggested I get a little photo album together with photos of Jackson, his friends and his interests. Jackson can bring the photo album to school and have some intimate one-on-one time with his teacher where he shares his album with her and tells her about his interests.


I’ve created the photo album and talked to Jackson about it. He is VERY excited to share it with his teacher. Unfortunately, when we brought it to school yesterday his teacher was out sick and today is Halloween so we will wait until next week to put this tool into action. Will update this post when I know whether it was effective or not.

(4) Use a Different Tone of Voice / Approach

The Challenge: Jackson doesn’t respond well to being redirected in a direct manner. For example, if I say “put away your toys please” he often ignores me. I hate to admit it, but one of my personal “problems” is that my normal tone of voice can often be perceived as harsh or a bit brash. I’m sure this has an effect on Jackson.

The Solution: He responds better to a calm, reassuring voice and needs us to help him with the transition not only visually (using the charts described above) but also with our choice of words.

The Tool: When transitioning from one activity or task to the next, it’s important to first get his attention. Jackson will often move on to another task, for example, without putting the first one away. The tool is to get down on his level and say something along the lines of “Wow, this (new activity) is so cool.” Start a conversation and when he begins to respond and you have his attention tell him what you would like him to do – “I’d love to help you with your lego castle but first can we put these blocks away?” If he says “no” simply say “Do you think you might be ready in 1 minute?” Jackson often replies something like “5 minutes!” lol So, I give him a couple minutes and ask again. For the most part, this has been WAY more effective than the “you’re going on time out!” tactic.

On Tuesday, we were at the chiropractor and Jackson was playing with their toys while I got adjusted. If you’ve ever been to the chiropractor, you know that the appointment doesn’t last long. Jackson was engrossed in his play and I knew it was going to be an ordeal. I got down on his level and said “Wow, these animals are so cool Jackson! What do you see?” He replied and then I said, “Well, I think they’re tired and need to go to bed. Will you help me put them to bed? We can throw them in the bins!” He agreed and we took turns throwing the stuffed animals into the bins (and putting them away… shhh!). It was still a struggle to get him out the door but, again, WAY more effective than putting everything away myself and yanking him away like a mean mommy.

I’m blogging about this because (1) There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you think your child needs to see an OT or if someone else recommends it, and (2) The tools they’ve provided us have really helped and we’re only in our first week of implementation! I hope that any other parents out there reading this know that they aren’t alone… we’ve got the hardest job in the world! And all we want is what’s best for our keiki :)


Life’s Swell…





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  1. You Want my Three-Year-Old to See an OT?? | Life's Swell says

    […] Just posted my new blog: Our OT “tools” – putting them to the test! […]