Happy 2020! It’s the time of year when we all reflect on the previous year and consider how we can make the upcoming year even better. New year’s resolutions are often one way to set goals for ourselves in an effort to start off our year on the right foot. Setting goals is a great way to build confidence, learn something new, build strength and endurance, and feel great! It is no different for our spellers with motor and sensory differences. Setting goals can be motivating, build autonomy, and confidence. One thing that is common among our spellers is the brain-body disconnect and the difficulty completing purposeful movement. As a parent or CRP (Communication Regulation Partner) we can support purposeful movement skills by developing motor goals so that our spellers can build those motor pathways for purposeful movement.
It can sometimes be overwhelming to think about working towards something for the entire year! In fact, this is the main reason why resolutions fail and people don’t meet their goals or make that change. We need to take things day by day and when things don’t go well, we get back up, dust ourselves off and get back on the horse! It is easier to look at things on a day to day basis rather than an entire year. Making goals that are achievable in shorter periods of time will increase the likelihood of us sticking to them and successfully meeting them.
One thing we need to understand about motor goals is MOTOR PLANNING. All motor tasks require motor planning. Motor planning involves coming up with an idea, planning, sequencing and organizing the body to complete the task, adjusting if necessary (if the movement doesn’t go as planned), and then reflecting on how successful (or not!) we were. As you can see, it is very involved and when we have motor and sensory differences, motor planning is very difficult. All of the goals that spellers choose will require the caregiver to break down the task and then support the body with motor prompts and coaching to successfully complete each step. So, now that we have a better understanding of motor planning, we can then help our speller choose a goal (or two) that is achievable.
Before we jump to setting these goals, there are a few things that we need to keep in mind. First, goal achievement. Only 8% of all goals set are actually achieved so how do we avoid becoming a statistic? We need to ensure that the goals that are set are actually achievable. Here are some quick points to consider when working with your speller on their motor goals.
But first a REALITY CHECK..
YOU AND YOUR CHILD CANNOT WORK ON EVERY FUNCTIONAL MOTOR MOVEMENT EVERY TIME. I apologize for “yelling” in my blog, but this is extremely important, especially for all the ‘type A’ parents out there!! Too often we stop reaching for a goal because we become overwhelmed. The same goes for our spellers. To avoid becoming overwhelmed consider these points….
1. What is the PRIORITY?
- If possible get input from your speller; if you are not fluent, consider the activities of daily living (bathing, dressing etc.) or physical activity (walking, fitness, sport etc.)
- Knowing the priority will help with motivation and most importantly autonomy.
- Also consider what is a priority for you as the CRP, parent, or caregiver.
2. What is REALISTIC?
- Make sure you can give you full attention to support the motor coaching. If not, this can lead to dysregulation; scheduling accordingly.
- What is your skill set? Perhaps a goal is to get more exercise in. If you don’t know much about exercise, you may want to consider sessions with a personal trainer so that you can learn specific movements and coaching.
- Consider your relationship with your child. Remember when we were teenagers and we knew everything and taking ANY advice or listening to our parents was not something we would remotely consider? Your child may also be going through something similar and it may be best to have another person work on reaching their motor goal, at least for a time.
3. Choose only ONE (maybe two) goals at a time
- This will allow for consistent practice for success. Too many goals will make things more challenging for the body and may result in slower progress and/or dysregulated bodies.
- Consider goals that will be “quick successes”. This will lead to motivation and momentum. The goals may seem small, but more success will keep things moving forward and lessen the chances of quitting.
4. WHEN should you practice?
- Consider practice during your functional routine – i.e. support with body coaching while eating to work on a goal for utensil use.
- Consider practicing at a designated time – schedule practice during the daily routine outside of the actual task
- Make sure to consider your speller’s (and your!) state of mind – is she (or you) exhausted, stressed, anxious?
5. HOW do we practice?
- Analyze tasks step by step and write them down to ensure that you are aware of how many steps it actually takes to complete the task. We often underestimate the numbers of steps.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat the steps again to develop automaticity
- Respect the tolerance of both you and your speller
- **Remember: This is simple for you, but COMPLICATED for your speller
- Patience and flexibility are key!
6. What to do if you’re stuck
- Ask an Occupational Therapist – she can support task breakdown to help
- If possible, ask your speller for feedback
- Remember your most important job is to be the parent or caregiver; ensure you have time for that job too!
- Don’t be hard on yourself when things don’t go as planned. Working towards a motor goal is not always an easy process!
- HAVE FUN!! Never forget to make this process fun. Be silly. Allow yourself to laugh when things go wrong as it will build your relationship with your speller AND support his motor goals.
Now for the fun part! Sit down with your speller and choose a couple of motor goals for this upcoming year. Look back at the steps above and see if you can come up with specific ways to achieve these goals. Not only will you be supporting their bodies, you will also be building new motor pathways, and building your relationship 🙂
HAPPY 2020 EVERYONE!
Written by Dana Johnson, PhD, MS, OTR/L
Dana Johnson is an S2C Practitioner, Director of Invictus Academy and Interplay Therapy Center, living in Tampa Bay, Florida.