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“Fall” Into Occupational Therapy

OT Recommended Fall Activities

The leaves are changing colors, the days are shorter and colder – it’s official. Fall is here! Along with a change of season, fall brings with it endless opportunities for family fun. But when you have a child who is also a Complex Learner, it can be difficult to find activities (especially Occupational Therapy focused activities) that the whole family can take part in. That’s where Wolf’s incredible Occupational Therapist, Priscilla Nova, comes in! 

We sat down with Priscilla for her top picks for Occupational Therapy activities that not only focus on key areas like sensory play, motor skills, or heavy work but also will engage your Complex Learner and your whole family! 

Understand Sensory Preferences

Whatever your child’s sensory preferences are, carving pumpkins provides something for everyone. For the children who seek out those tactile experiences, let them examine the inside of the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds, and really dive in to fulfill their sensory needs. 

If you have a child who is more sensory defensive, adapt the activity for their preference. This not only still allows them to engage with the activity but illustrates for them that they can find safe ways to take part in activities that might initially make them uncomfortable. To adapt an activity successfully, it’s important to really understand what part of the activity your child dislikes. For example, if they hate the feeling of their hands being sticky, have them wear gloves. Whereas if they hate the smell of pumpkins,  have the pumpkin seeds placed in a sealed gallon sized bag so they can still examine them but without the smell.

Similarly, make a dessert for an upcoming gathering or holiday together. Split up the activities based on their preferences – you can have one sibling read the recipe aloud and add the ingredients to the bowl while the sensory seeker mixes the cookie dough mix and rolls it into balls. 

Incorporate Heavy Work

The option for heavy work is endless in the fall! Providing a way for your child to have their need for heavy work met not only helps them stay regulated but it also provides a safe, structured way for them to fill this need instead of them seeking it out in unsafe or unwanted scenarios (like jumping on the couch, etc.). 

Our first suggestion – have the whole family compete in a pumpkin relay! If your child has a higher threshold for heavy work, give them the bigger pumpkin while a sibling or friend can carry a smaller one. This will even the playing field for everyone involved leading to a fun and engaging experience.

Next up – raking the leaves! While this might sound more like an errand than an activity, there are ways to make it fun. Turn it into a timed contest and allow the winner to jump into their pile at the end. Or collect your favorite leaves throughout for you to then use for a craft activity afterwards (drying leaves into bookmarks, tracing them to create table place cards, etc.). Or you can even buy pumpkin decorated leaf bags and as your children fill them with leaves, they can see the pumpkin get bigger and bigger!

Skills & Senses

Finally, let’s engage their senses and work on some important skills. Hold a baking contest and split up the roles. Some members of the family bake a tasty treat while others play the role of judges. By having your Complex Learner take on the role of judge, you’re encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone by trying a bite of a new treat while also strengthening their language skills as you ask them to describe the taste and smell of it.

Finally, hold a fun decorating contest! Using a large piece of cardboard, cut out the shape of a pumpkin or a turkey, or whatever other item/animal you’d like. Then challenge your kids to decorate it (using googly eyes, feathers, stickers, etc.). But the challenge – they have to do it all from behind the cutout. Not only is this sure to guarantee some laughs but it will help your child strengthen their fine motor skills (peeling stickers, picking up small googly eyes, etc.). 

These next few weeks before the holiday season are sure to fly by so be sure to take advantage of your time together as a family and take part in some fun fall activities! By incorporating some Occupational Therapy work into the activities, your Complex Learner will be able to have their needs met or focus on areas of growth while also joining in on the fun!

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