Back to School: Keeping up with your Child’s Hemiparesis Exercises
Back to school can bring a variety of challenges for any family. I can be even more complicated for caregivers of children with hemiparesis. Between school work, extracurriculars, sports or chores, the day can become full very quickly. Many parents report that it can be hard to find time to keep up with the daily home exercise programs prescribed by their therapists. Studies of this area back up this finding. A recent systematic review noted that home programs for children that are convenient, social, and enjoyable are the most likely to be followed through with by families.
Check out these useful tips to help keep your kiddo on track with their rehabilitation exercises with minimal stresses for mom or dad even after the school year starts.
Tips for kid's rehabilitation exercises
Make it fun – anyone with a child knows that you can’t force them to pay attention to anything for very long if they aren’t interested, but therapy time can fly by when they are having fun. Get them excited to use their affected arm by incorporating it into game play. The competition and challenge inherent in games has also been shown to increase motivation and engagement.
Keep track of progress - Both adults and kiddos like to know when they are making progress. By documenting even subtle increases in ability, Kiddos can start share in the pride and self-efficacy that comes from accomplishing a goal.
Keep the challenge just right - Make sure the expectations you have for your child are realistic and appropriate for their age, condition and developmental capacity. Avoid boredom or burnout by working with your therapist to ensure that any home program is tailored to your kiddo’s level of ability.
Set aside time - If exercise isn’t built into a routine it almost always gets forgotten. Be realistic about how much time you and your kiddo actually have to devote to home exercises and try to keep it consistent.
Prepare the body and the mind - Don’t underestimate how much the environment can affect your kiddo. When getting ready to exercise the affected arm, reduce excess stimulation such as loud or distracting music or lighting. Talk to your therapist about providing some preparatory sensory grounding strategies prior to exercises.
Reward and Praise - Most kiddos respond well to structured goal attainment. Sticker charts with weekly awards for completing home exercise sessions can be effective. Remind your little one of the amazing job they are doing by pointing out areas of growth and achievement and link it to their hard work during exercise time.
Holt CJ, McKay CD, Truong LK, Le CY, Gross DP, Whittaker JL. Sticking to It: A Scoping Review of Adherence to Exercise Therapy Interventions in Children and Adolescents With Musculoskeletal Conditions. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2020 Sep;50(9):503-515. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2020.9715. Epub 2020 Aug 1. PMID: 32741327.