As April and National Occupational Therapy Month come to a close, The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences wants to recognize the unique ways Occupational Therapists are helping people during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many people have heard about the field of Occupational Therapy (OT), but few people are aware of what OTs actually do. Occupational therapists are healthcare professionals who help individuals maximize functional performance. They work with people who have injuries, illnesses, disabilities, or other conditions that affect their ability to perform everyday tasks.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, OTs are providing valuable tips and advice to people and families. Dr. Keith McWilliams, and other occupational therapy professors from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in Dallas, shared the following tips:
- Create a designated space for work (and class for kids): this should be a space that can be designated for work or class activities only, and not interfere with any other at home activity such as eating, sleeping or playing. Set a daily routine. Both children and adults can benefit from familiar patterns in this new everyday life we are experiencing.
- For parents, use this opportunity to reframe your understanding of learning. There are so many important life skills a child can learn at home from younger children helping with chores to older children learning to open and manage an online checking or savings account. Get outside and work in the yard. Research shows that children who help around the house are happier and more well-adjusted is a great chance to broaden their sense of independence.
- Stay Engaged. When we focus on meaningful tasks, we feel calm and tune out all the white noise surrounding us. This is a great time to start those family projects around the house you’ve always swore you would do or dust off those old boardgames. Doing is the anecdote for anxiety!
- Moderate News Consumption. It’s important to stay informed, but don’t inundate yourself and your family with the constant flow of news. In fact, try to limit your children’s exposure to news. Set aside a ‘news hour’ for yourself where you keep informed of the daily developments rather than stewing in a constant stream of negative information every day.
- Kids need conversation. Talk about your feelings, and more importantly encourage your children to talk to you. This is a lot for all of us to process – especially for kids. It’s okay to say that sometimes you are worried too, but emphasize that by staying at home, you are keeping each other safe. Give your child extra comfort and physical affection, like hugs or snuggling up together with a favorite book. Physical comfort goes a long way towards providing inner security. That closeness can nourish you, too.
- Involve your kids in scheduling! While the transition to home/online school can be challenging, encourage your kids to participate in managing their own schedules. Print out the schedules provided by schools, cut the different subjects out, and have them arrange their subjects on a poster board calendar like a puzzle to assist in visual learning.
- Home alone? Prolonged isolation and inactivity can quickly impact morale and productivity. In order to keep spirits up, we should continue to engage in virtual birthday parties, happy hours, and make time for those casual “water cooler” conversations.
- Ask for help. Most importantly, do not fear asking for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned regarding the impacts of COVID-19. See if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program with tele-counseling.