Category Archives: Self-Regulation

Visual Schedules

Many children benefit from routine in their daily lives. A visual schedule is an easy way to provide a child with a visual reminder of what they can expect for their day. Many children experience less anxiety when they know what to expect before something happens. It is easy to find pictures to make your own visual schedule by searching Google. You can make very specific visual schedules (for example: getting dressed – put on underwear, put on pants, put on socks, put on shirt, put on sweater) or a more general schedule (for example a daily routine – get out of bed, eat breakfast, go to school, eat lunch, TV time, homework, supper, play time, bed time). Print the visual schedule you make and hang it close to where they will use it.

Some ideas to try:

  • Give the child a new paper with their visual schedule on it every time so they can check off the steps as they complete them
  • Laminate pictures of each of the steps and create a schedule with two columns (one column is ‘to do’ and the other is ‘done’), attach velcro to both sides and have child move the picture from the ‘to do’ column to the ‘done’ column when they have completed it

Here is an example of a visual schedule:

Morning Routine

Eat breakfast

Get dressed

Brush teeth

Brush hair

Put on coat

Put on shoes

Put on backpack

Heavy Work Activities

Heavy work activities are activities that involve the big muscles and joints of the body (pushing, pulling, carrying, etc.). Heavy work activities help release a neurotransmitter called serotonin that helps calm and organize our brain and bodies. Below are some examples of heavy work activities:

  • Carrying heavy books from one room to another at school
  • Playing tug of war with a rope
  • Crawling through a tunnel
  • Pushing themselves around on a scooter board
  • Pulling another student that is holding a hula hoop and sitting on a scooter board
  • Pulling another child around on a sheet or blanket
  • Pushing the cart while grocery shopping
  • Doing animal walks (crab, bear, bunny, kangaroo, elephant, etc.)
  • Wall push ups – stand up with hands against the wall and do a push up
  • Popcorn – sitting in a chair push up on hands so bottom is off the seat, keep popping up and down like popcorn

There are so many activities that would be considered heavy work activities. Any activity that involves the large muscles of the body are great for organizing the brain to help the child be ready to learn. Use these activities throughout the day to help children stay on task and provide them with the movement their bodies crave!

What do OTs do?

What do OTs (Occupational Therapists) do? Many people have no idea what an OT is when I tell them what I do! Many people think that we help people get jobs, but that is not the case (mostly anyways!). OTs focus on the areas of self-care, productivity and leisure. So depending where an OT is working they are helping people with very different things. OTs are trained in the areas of anatomy & physiology, neurology, child development, mental health, counselling, older adult disabilities, among other areas.

In acute care (hospitals) we focus a lot on self-care, helping people to be independent in their basic daily activities such as getting themselves dressed, having a bath, preparing a meal or moving around their homes/community. We prescribe equipment and provide education about how they can become more successful completing their activities of daily living in a safe manner. An independent study by health policy researchers published in Medical Care Research and Review (Rogers, Bai, Lavin, & Anderson, 2016) found that “occupational therapy is the only spending category where additional spending has a statistically significant association with lower readmission rates” for the three health conditions studied: heart failure, pneumonia, and acute myocardial infarction. Yay OT!

When working with children as we do at Bright Horizons OT, the focus looks very different. We use play as a means to achieving the child’s/family’s goals. In order to achieve the goals, we either use remediation (treating the underlying deficit) or compensation (adapting activities or environment) to make the child more successful in their everyday activities. The goals of OT can be many different things, here are some examples of general goals:


  • Increase ability to pick up small objects and release them
  • Increase ability to use both hands together (e.g. stabilizing the paper while writing with the other hand, holding a jar while using the other hand to twist the lid, etc.)
  • Increase handwriting legibility and/or speed
  • Increase accuracy while cutting with scissors


  • Increase core strength/postural stability in order to increase gross and fine motor skills
  • Increase the child’s support while sitting in a chair at school (proper seating in order to maximize their ability to complete school activities)
  • Making adaptations in gym class/sports/leisure activities to increase participation


  • Increase self-care abilities such as getting themselves dressed, doing up buttons, zippers, tying their shoes, etc.
  • Provide adaptive equipment/education to help make bathing independently or with assistance easier


  • Increase self-feeding abilities (using a spoon, fork, knife, open cup, straw cup, etc.)
  • Expand the number of foods a picky eater/problem feeder will eat


  • Decrease sensitivities to sensory input (lights, sound, touch, etc.) and/or make environmental adaptations to help them cope with these sensitivities
  • Increase the child’s ability to engage in hair brushing, hair washing, hair cutting, etc. for those that are sensitive to these activities
  • Make adaptations/find clothing that the child will wear without being bothered by tags, seams, fabrics, etc.


  • Increase on task behaviour in children who have attention difficulties (teaching self-regulation skills)

These are just some examples of the things that are addressed when you see an OT. One of the greatest parts of our job is we get to look at such a wide variety of areas!

Practical Sense in Sensory Integration Course

Over the past couple of months I have been focusing a lot on continuing education related to sensory processing. I came across Julia Harper’s online courses on sensory processing and was hooked immediately! Julia is a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. She provides so much physiology to back her treatment, it makes me excited! I have completed part 1 (modulation) and part 2 (self-regulation) of her courses and I know I won’t stop there. Here are a few of the basics that I have learned:

  • There are four different types of sensory processing disorders:
    • Modulation – expressed behaviourally
    • Self-Regulation – expressed with inconsistent behaviour and skills
    • Postural & Discrimination – expressed with poor quality and/or quantity of skills
    • Integration & Praxis – expressed with skill refinement deficits
  • The type of sensory processing disorder is determined by where the breakdown occurs. That is, where the sensory information gets stuck and is not processed appropriately (lower brainstem, upper brainstem & cerebellum, midbrain & cortex).

I would highly recommend any Occupational Therapist working with children take Julia Harper’s courses. They are a good value for your money, especially since they are online and you don’t have to pay for flights and hotels!

The website is: Therapeeds

Free Printable Movement Break Cards!


When I was a student working in the school system one of my projects was to create some movement break cards that could be shared with teachers and therapists. I am now sharing those with you! They are meant to be printed two-sided with the picture on the front and the description on the back. Feel free to share with your friends/family/colleagues but I would appreciate if you sent them the link to this blog so they can download them directly from here. Thank you!

Movement Break Cards for Home or Classroom