“No matter how much I send him outside to play, he seems to be inexhaustible. “It’s a small engine. “A battery on two legs.” »
These terms, Émilie Bastien often hears them from the mouths of distraught parents when it comes time to accompany their young child in daily tasks. Morning and evening routines at home become endless when it comes to getting dressed, eating or getting ready for bed, explains the occupational therapist who works with children at the Aptitude Ergo clinic.
“The child is everywhere and easily distracted, you have to rehearse and supervise a lot,” she illustrates.
Above all, it must be understood that the occupational therapist will not make a diagnosis, specifies Émilie Bastien; its role is to support parents by providing them with tools and strategies that will facilitate the daily routine.
And if a child likes to move, but is also able to perform quiet activities (even if this is not what he prefers), functions and develops well, there is no need to worry about right now, she notes.
First, the occupational therapist will try to find what type of stimulation succeeds in calming the child enough to allow him to concentrate, compared to stimuli that will increase his level of energy and excitement, explains Émilie Bastien.
“We could introduce an active break before the meal period where we move him for two minutes, for example. After that, when he sits at the table, there are small heavy doggies that the child can have on his legs. Or sensory cushions that can be placed on the seat so that he can seek a little movement without it being disturbing. »
You can also use a small hourglass as a visual cue so he knows how long you expect him to sit, she suggests. If there are children for whom the manipulation of objects can be a good strategy, others, on the contrary, will tend to concentrate too much on what they are manipulating and will not carry pay attention to the task they have to perform.
Émilie Bastien adds that you also have to aim for realistic goals. The child is first asked to remain seated for five minutes; then, the following week, we gradually increase this duration by one minute.
Above all, we don’t want to repress his natural need to move, she emphasizes, because at some point, he will no longer be able to contain himself. “And then it won’t work anymore, he’ll jump everywhere!” »
The goal, he says, is to balance the child’s need to move with everyday tasks. “There are children who, during the day, they may hold back, raises Émilie Bastien. At daycare or daycare, yes, they will play outside, do motor activities, but maybe they can’t move when they want – they still have a pretty structured schedule. And it may be that in the evening, they need to move because they have held back a little during the day. »
If you decide to incorporate small motor games after dinner, you can then dim the lights and try to speak a little less loudly – or even put relaxation music in the background during the bath, suggests the occupational therapist. And if that’s not enough, you can use a heavy stuffed animal or a heavy blanket for 15 to 20 minutes while you read the story, adds Emilie Bastien. But again, be patient, because sometimes you have to try different strategies before finding the one that works best.
Concerned about your child’s well-being or development? Write to our journalist, we will try to answer it with the help of an expert.