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Archive for category: Kids

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Self-Esteem Boosting Tips

We all seem to have a tendency to look in the mirror and focus on the negative; however, it is known that the power of positivity can help boost self-esteem.  The following article from Today’s Parent discusses the importance of building self-esteem in children from a young age and tips on how to boost their confidence so they can happily look themselves in the mirror every day.

Today’s Parent:  How To Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem

These tips aren’t just great for boosting self-esteem in kids, but can work for adults too!

 

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Keeping Up Appearances: Social Media and Self-Esteem

Guest Blogger:  Susan Wang, Occupational Therapist

In the current age of media, the internet and social media sites (especially Instagram) contribute heavily towards bombarding young girls with images and videos of models. Approx. 90% of adolescents use social media daily, frequently for more than 2 hours a day.  Girls are more exposed in higher rates to media than boys which make females much more vulnerable to the negative impacts of media than boys. With the rise of social media use for marketing and advertising, content creators and models can interact heavily with their viewers through comments and live videos. They create heavily curated profiles and document intimate moments of their lives that thousands (sometimes millions) of individuals follow and keep up with. This, in addition to the popularity of Instagram use by celebrities, can create the illusion of forming authentic relationships with their audience. The interactive nature of social networking also provides opportunities for girls to compare their appearance with their peers. For example, taking selfies may cause women to scrutinize their own image from an observer’s perspective, which is then further reinforced by instant feedback on their appearance through the form of comments and ‘likes.’

Social media presents unique pressures on body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. It is a highly visual environment in which appearance ideals and the pursuit of thinness are promoted. Indeed, the interactive nature of social media appears to contribute to increases in disordered eating. As social media marketing and advertising continues to grow, competition amongst content creators and “influencers” also rises. There is a need to create a persona and create images/videos that stand out amongst the thousands of other marketers competing for the same sponsorships. This results in models utilizing photo editing apps to alter their images. With the rise of “FaceTune” and other photo editing apps, it is increasingly easier for individuals to alter their images, without needing to consult professionals or develop skills in photo editing. This has resulted in girls comparing themselves to unrealistic beauty standards.

In addition, celebrities such as Kim Kardashian have normalized the usage of surgical enhancements. Lip injections, breast augmentations, “fillers”, and other cosmetic surgery has been on the rise in recent years.  Cosmetic doctors have reported an increase in teens seeking lip injections, citing photos of Kylie Jenner as an inspiration. Studies have shown that women who rated their self-esteem, life-satisfaction, and attractiveness as low, were more likely to undergo cosmetic surgery.  This study also indicated that women with high social media exposure were more likely to undergo plastic surgery.  There is also an increase in the number of teenagers seeking plastic surgery. In 2017, approximately 220,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients aged 13-19 and social media plays a large part in this trend.  The average Millenial takes over 25,000 selfies in their lifetime, which is one of the major reasons for the self-esteem issues in this age group. In a recent American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery survey, more than 40% of surgeons said looking better in selfies on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook was an incentive for patients of all ages getting surgery. This is magnified for teens, who use social media more often.

Instagram vs. Reality

There are existing efforts to combat the rise in unrealistic beauty standards by raising awareness about the increasing use of photo editing apps. One such example is a community on the forum “Reddit” that posts side-by-side comparisons of edited images posted by models and celebrities and non-edited photos or videos depicting what they actually look like. While some of the posts contain borderline offensive/body-shaming comments, the concept can be helpful, especially for young girls, in highlighting the efforts and altering (posing, editing) that goes into celebrities’ images.

Some additional helpful resources we came across include:

References:

Brown, A., Furnham, A., Glanville, L., & Swami, V. (2007). Factors that affect the likelihood of undergoing cosmetic surgery. Aesthet Surg J, 27 (5). 501-508.

Paul, K. (2018, October 10). Do Instagram and Snapchat distort how teenagers see themselves? MarketWatch. Retrieved from
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-unsettling-relationship-between-selfie-filters-and-plasticsurgery-2018-08-02

Paul, K. (2018, September 30). More than 200,000 teens had plastic surgery last year, and social media had a lot to do with it. MarketWatch. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/should-you-let-your-teenager-get-plastic-surgery-2018-08-29

Fardouly, J., Diedrichs, P. C., Vartanian, L. R., & Halliwell, E. (2015). The mediating role of appearance comparisons in the relationship between media usage and self-objectification in young women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39, 447–457.

Oberst, U., Wegmann, E., Stoft, B., Brand, M., & Chamarro, A. (2017). Negative consequences from heavy social networking in adolescents: The mediating role of fear of missing out. Journal of Adolescence, 55, 51-60.

Costa, L. D. C. F., de Vasconcelos, F. D. A. G., & Peres, K. G. (2010). Influence of biological, social and psychological factors on abnormal eating attitudes among female university students in Brazil.

Journal of Facial Plastic Surgery (2014). Selfie trend increases demand for facial plastic surgery. Retrieved from https://www.aafprs.org/media/press_release/20140311.html

Salmela-Aro, K,, Upadyaya, K., Hakkarainen, K,, & Lonka, K. (2016). The Dark Side of Internet Use: Two Longitudinal Studies of Excessive Internet Use, Depressive Symptoms, School Burnout and Engagement Among Finnish Early and Late Adolescents. Journal of Youth and
Adolescence, 46 (2). DO – 10.1007/s10964-016-0494-2

de Vries, D. A., & Peter, J. (2013). Women on display: The effect of portraying the self online on women’s self-objectification. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1483e1489. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.01.015 .

Spettigue, W., & Henderson, K.A. (2004). Eating disorders and the role of the media. The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review, 13 (1), 16-19.

 

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The Rights of a Child

Written by Justine Huszczynski, Occupational Therapist

November 20th marks the date when Canada adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Simply put, the UNCRC is a treaty that outlines the basic human rights for children and youth.

Among other rights, the UNCRC outlines “survival and development rights” which are explained as “the basic rights to life, survival and development of one’s full potential”. Looking into this a little deeper, Article 23 under the “survival and development rights” states:

“Children who have any kind of disability have the right to special care and support, as well as all the rights in the Convention, so that they can live full and independent lives.”

So, how is Canada ensuring that the rights of children with disabilities are being fulfilled? Of course, we have public healthcare which provides children prompt access to medical attention. But Article 23 goes beyond this. It also includes the right to services – therapy services perhaps – that children with “any kind of disability” should be able to access such that they can become independent adults and experience a fulfilling life.

While Ontario offers plenty of publicly funded early intervention services for children with disabilities (based on the availability of government-funded children’s treatment centres across the province), how are the outrageous waitlists for some of the most valuable services offered in these centres acceptable? For example, in 2013 the Toronto Star surveyed nine of the government-funded treatment centres and found average waitlist times ranging from one to four years for a child to receive intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) therapy.

So how does this follow the guidelines of the UNCRC? Honestly, it doesn’t. Simply having a service available to a child with a disability is not enough. The service needs to be provided. Long waitlists do not allow children to “live full and independent lives” but in fact can stifle a child’s development by denying access to programs that are most effective as “early intervention”.

Therefore, while we celebrate how far we have come to secure the rights of children, we need to look ahead and aim for a brighter future for those children that may need some extra support – sooner rather than later. An example of striving for a brighter future comes from the parents of one of my clients who devoted their time to being their child’s advocate when “he didn’t have a voice”. After this young client was denied services by one of the government-funded children’s treatment centres in Ontario, his parents scheduled a meeting with their local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) to advocate for their son’s dire need for early intervention services. As a result of the advocacy skills of my client’s parents, the MPP ordered the treatment centre to complete a reassessment and the child was granted the early intervention services that he absolutely deserved and required. During a conversation with the mother of this client, she stated, “It is my job to be make my child’s life better”. This statement is heartwarming, and perhaps we should view it as a challenge. A challenge for all of us – therapists, health professionals, teachers, citizens, governments– to truly make it our “job” to ensure children are given the best life possible. So take the challenge and advocate for our children – ask more questions, get second opinions, research the available charitable funding, schedule meetings with your MPP, school board trustee, and don’t take no for an answer.

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Mental Health Services for Youth

Nicole Kelday, Student Occupational Therapist (University of Toronto)

Cowritten by:  Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

 

It is staggering to realize that 39% of Ontario high school students show active symptoms of anxiety and depression. And while there are a multitude of resources available to help students that may require mental health services, only 40% of Canadians aged 15-19 reported they have not accessed these when needed. This begs the question…why are these youths not seeking services?

Reaching out for help can be daunting and many report stigma related to mental health concerns, especially in high schools. So, how do we encourage youth to access the services available to them and talk to those who may be experiencing similar concerns? A new emerging trend in mental health care is the concept of youth-led groups. Youth-led groups involve a shift in thinking, instead of viewing youth as our clients; they are viewed as partners and leaders to improve the practice of youth engagement in the mental healthcare system.

Across the province, community agencies have begun to initiate youth-led groups by involving youth with mental health illness in leading each other to raise mental health awareness and fight existing stigma. With support from a clinical adult ally, youth have participated in the creation of youth-friendly services by designing waiting rooms in clinical environments to encompass the interests of this group.

It is known that participation in meaningful activities and roles can enhance emotional well-being and social competence. Occupational therapists (OTs) have the unique ability to evaluate and facilitate supportive environments in order to promote mental health amongst children and youth. By involving all key stakeholders, OTs are able to determine factors that influence the ability of a youth to fulfill their primary roles and occupations and provide interventions to promote maximal functional participation in such.

As a student occupational therapist, I could immediately recognize how this concept strongly resonated with the core beliefs of client-centredness. Youth-led groups truly highlight the client as not only an active partner but also a leader, in their healthcare experience. Youth are equipped with vast knowledge and perspectives that we as healthcare professionals may not immediately recognize, which may help to explain why youth are not seeking available services in the first place.

 

References

1. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (2018). Transforming mental health for children and youth. Retrieved from https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/transforming-mental-health-for-children-and-youth

2. Hartman, L., Michel, N., Winter, A., Young, R., Flett, G. & Goldberg, J. (2013). Self-Stigma of Mental Illness in High School Youth. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 28(1), 28-42.

3. The New Mentality (2016). TNM Groups. Retrieved from https://www.thenewmentality.ca/what/tnmgroups/

4. The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. Mental health in children and youth: the benefit and role of occupational therapy. Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/AboutOT/Professionals/WhatIsOT/MH/Facts/MH%20in%20Children%20and%20Youth%20fact%20sheet.pdf

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The Accessible Playground

How does your local playground stack up when it comes to access for all?  Is it accessible?  Older playgrounds were not built with accessibility in mind; however, newer builds are breaking barriers for users with not only physical disabilities but invisible disabilities such as autism and sensory processing disorders.  In the following article learn more about how the universal design of playgrounds is becoming standard, creating more welcoming spaces for children and youth of all abilities.

The Globe and Mail: Playgrounds can alienate children with disabilities. Now, they’re being built with accessibility in mind

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Foster Independence with Memory Mantras

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Being an Occupational Therapist can also be a curse when it comes to parenting.  As an OT, the goals are always functional independence.  As a parent, I am no different.  I remember a video I watched in OT school.  This was of a boy (young adult) with cerebral palsy and he was putting his coat on.  The video was probably 20 minutes (or it felt that long).  As I watched this boy struggle with his coat for what seemed liked eternity, I wanted to jump through the TV to help him.  Clearly, with some help, this could be done faster and easier.  But in the end, it was not about that.  It was about independence.

As parents, it is often faster and easier to do things for our kids.  Or, we feel the need to continuously protect our kids from failure by ensuring that we are their second brain.  But is this the right choice when the goal is to create people that can manage on their own?

I have created two memory mantras that are used in our house to ensure my kids are seeing the big picture and are developing some executive functioning (note I also use these mantras with my clients who suffer from memory impairment):

  1. When leaving the house our mantra is:  WHERE AM I GOING AND WHAT DO I NEED?  When my children ask themselves this question, they need to stop and think “I am going to X and thus need Y (water, shoes, birthday present, tennis racquet, money)”.  This prevents them from showing up at X unprepared.
  2. When leaving a place in the community our mantra is:  WHAT DID I COME WITH AND WHAT DO I HAVE?  By asking themselves this question, they quickly realize that they came with X and thus need to bring X home (coat, shoes, water, bag, lunch).  This prevents them from leaving things behind.

The success is in hearing my children repeat this to themselves when on their way out the door.  Recently, at a sporting event, we heard a teenage boy blame his mother for forgetting his water.  She was profusely apologetic and rushed out to find him a drink.  My children (who were younger at the time) turned to me and said: “shouldn’t he remember his own water”?  My thoughts exactly.

Originally posted June 2013

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Get Back to Routine with These Helpful Resources

Summer vacation is coming to a close and the kids are heading back to school!  Due to vacations, sleepovers, and the unstructured nature of no school, daily routines are often disrupted over the summer months. A consistent daily routine for kids is critical to them learning responsibility, time management, and so they get a good sleep.

Therefore in September, it is important to re-establish what morning, after-school and bedtime time should look like.

While growing up, in our house, we had each of our girls “daily routines” typed, laminated and posted in the back hall. Though each differed slightly, they included:

Morning: 

  • wake up at 7:00 am
  • make beds
  • get dressed
  • eat a healthy breakfast
  • brush teeth and hair
  • pack lunch and backpack
  • out the door by 7:40


After-School: 

  • shoes and back-packs away
  • lunch boxes emptied
  • dry snacks and water bottle packed for the next day
  • paperwork from school in the “in box”
  • have a healthy snack
  • do any homework
  • then play (no technology)!


Before Bed:  

  • dinner dishes put away
  • play areas and bedroom are tidy
  • shower
  • healthy bedtime snack
  • reading time
  • lights out at 9:00 pm

Use our great free printable that can be customized for your children. This will help them to stay on track each day in the morning, after-school and before bed. Be sure to review this with the kids before implementing, confirm the expectations, and get their commitment.  You’ll be well on your way to creating a less stressful and more organized home!  

Check out more of our FREE printables for both children and adults, available on our website!

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Try Yoga for Improved Focus and Self-Regulation in Children

Guest Blogger Jana Maich, Occupational Therapist

Working as an occupational therapist in pediatrics, I am always on the lookout for simple strategies I can offer to parents and classroom teachers that can be easily be implemented. One of the main difficulties expressed to me by concerned parents or teachers is that a child is having difficulty controlling their activity level, focusing or attending, or controlling emotional outbursts. In other words, a child is having difficulty self-regulating.

What does this mean? Self-regulation is our ability to monitor and control our body’s arousal level (in other words, our level of alertness) in order to remain in an optimal state that is appropriate for the current situation. Self-regulation is critical to being able to attend, focus, and learn (1). When our body’s arousal level gets too “high,” we may feel anxious, nervous, or stressed. When our body’s arousal level gets too “low,” we may feel lethargic, sluggish, or tired. Often unconsciously, adults participate in a variety of self-regulation strategies to remain in an optimum state throughout our day. For example, in a boring meeting where your level of alertness may be “low,” you may tap your pencil, shift in your chair, apply pressure to your mouth or chin with your hands, or drink water in order to bring your arousal level up. After an intense day of work when you may be feeling too “high,” you may take a bath, read a book, or participate in some other sort of relaxation promoting activity (1). There are many ways to regulate ourselves, and just as adults require self-regulation strategies, children do too. Yet, in today’s changing and fast-passed society, children are more stressed than ever before. School demands have increased, daily schedules are jam-packed, and they don’t have as much play or “down” time as kids once did. Unfortunately, unstructured play activities that are critical to a child’s innate self-regulation needs have been replaced by TV and electronics. All of this has ultimately stressed our young generations, resulting in disrupted self-regulation.

Yoga is one activity that has become recognized as a suitable and helpful regulation activity – for people of all ages. (2). For children, yoga offers many potential benefits – both physically and emotionally. Benefits include improved postural control, immune functioning, body awareness, strength and flexibility, emotional control, attention, sleep, and a decrease in stress and anxiety. Yoga is a simple strategy with a variety of exercises that can be completed anywhere including at home, when on vacation, while lying in bed, or as a group in the classroom. Depending on the current needs of the child, there are various poses and breathing exercises designed to bring arousal levels up or down as appropriate. Over time, children begin to develop an enhanced mind-body connection and an improved ability to monitor and manage their own levels of arousal (2).

In my personal experience, using simple breathing strategies and poses in my practice, has demonstrated firsthand how yoga can positively affect children with both physical and mental disabilities including autism, ADHD, emotional difficulties, mental health conditions, and motor coordination difficulties. In older children, learning how to control their own emotions and arousal levels empowers them and creates both self-esteem and self-control.

So what are you waiting for? Search out local yoga programs for you or your child. Try these links: www.yoga4classrooms.com or www.childlightyoga.com. Consider that many places will let you try a class without a commitment, or offer great starter incentives. Or, buy a CD or DVD, or check out some poses and breathing exercises via online videos to see if this might work for you or your family.

Originally posted July 2014

(1) Williams, M., & Shellenberger, S. (2012). “How does your engine run?” A leader’s guide to the Alert Program for self-regulation.” Albuquerque, NM: Therapy Works

(2) Flynn, L. (2010). Yoga 4 classrooms. Tools for learning, lessons for life. Dover, NH: Yoga 4 Classrooms.

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Recognizing Sensory Sensitivity in Children

In a previous post, Recognizing Sensory Seeking in Children, we discussed the “sensory seeking” child. On the other end of the spectrum is the sensory defensive child. Unlike sensory seekers who have high thresholds for sensory input, sensory sensitive children have very low sensory thresholds. Due to these low thresholds, they experience sensory input much more intensely or notice sensory input much more often than their peers. This means that sensory input that may not bother you and I may be very aversive, distracting, threatening, or even painful for that child.

Our OT-V episode (below), will help you to understand this sensitivity and provide you with the solutions an Occupational Therapist can recommend.

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.