For those of you who are new to the blog, Krisanne is Cali’s occupational therapist. In a recent session, I noticed a fun activity Krisanne chose to start the session. She started with an “attention getter” activity involving their bodies, a heavy-weight ball, and a cognitive element (counting). This “attention getter” game was done for multiple purposes. Obviously one purpose was to establish focus. Cali is usually pretty excited and disorganized when she starts a session. Disorganized in her thoughts and her body. She is all over the place and has a hard time getting a handle on her physical orientation. Another purpose was to build proprioception (proprioception is the sense of the orientation of one’s limbs in space. Without proprioception, we’d need to consciously watch our feet to make sure that we stay upright while walking.) A third purpose was build cognitive awareness. This coincides with the first purpose mentioned about establishing focus and attention. Let me explain each of these purposes.
Cali’s sessions with Krisanne are each an hour long. An hour of working for any four year old can be hard work, but for Cali it is especially hard. Although many of the activities and “work” within the session are entertaining and of interest, Cali can be distracted and lose focus very quickly. Starting out the session with an activity that grabs Cali’s attention and focus is crucial. In this particular activity Cali and Krisanne sat on the flour facing each other. They began tossing the ball back-and-forth while counting. Cali had to focus on receiving the ball from Krisanne, giving the ball back to Krisanne, and keep track of counting as each toss was made. If she lost focus for a split second, you can obviously guess what would happen. And guess what…her focus was split and sometimes she would lose count and other times she would drop the ball. Despite the lapses in her focus, the activity was achieving the purpose of gaining Cali’s attention. It was interesting to her. By using a motor skill component within the activity, Krisanne is able to apply proprioceptive input. This ultimately helps her to “calm” her body and mind. And by calm I mean get her body to be organized, focused, and settled. By using the heavy-weight ball she is applying weight to her muscles and joints. These are receptors in the body that when activated release chemicals actually telling your body to “calm” itself. Krisanne put it this way…think of when you go for a casual run. As you get going you begin to feel a rhythm in your pace, your body starts to relax, and becomes very organized in it’s movement. You become very aware of the orientation of your body. Running activates those receptors within your muscles and joints and consequently releases those chemicals that placed you in that rhythmic, relaxed, organized state. Combine the proprioceptive input with a cognitive component and you will achieve even more focus. Having Cali think, being cognitively aware, helps her mind to stay focused and attentive. If you were to choose an “attention getter” game which only involved a gross motor element you might just end up with a more hyper and unfocused child. Kind of defeats the purpose. So counting while tossing the ball is a perfect way to establish focus within her body AND her mind. If you are ever having trouble getting your child to sit down and “work” (homework, fine motor activity, reading, etc.), try an attention getter activity first.
Remember these simple rules:
1. Choose an activity that gathers their attention, that is of hight interest.
2. Use movement or heavy work to help engage them. Remember this is activating the proprioception. Critical!
3. Pair a cognitive element with the movement. This can be counting, following directions, or anything else that requires cognitive function. Thinking. Here is Cali and Krisanne in action:)