How to help your child get excited about the school year.

School is about to start and there are many emotions associated with going back to school. Your child may be excited, anxious, nervous, happy, or scared. All of these emotions are perfectly okay. It is important to acknowledge your child’s emotions and support them as they transition from summer back to school. Here are some ideas to help your child transition from summer to school.

Visit the school

It is important to expose your child to the school prior to first day. Does your child’s school have a playground that you can visit a few times prior to school starting? By visiting the playground early you might be able to meet other children that will also be attending the school. Attend the open house and meet the teacher ahead of time. This can decrease first day anxieties by already knowing what the teacher looks like and their name.

Get Excited yourself

The more excitement you have about the new adventures your child will have at school the more excited they will get. Children pick up on our emotions so if you are excited they are more likely to be excited versus if you are nervous or scared they will minimic those emotions.

Support Your School

Does your school has specific school colors or clothing you can purchase ahead of time? This can help your child feel part of the school community. Does your school collect box tops or can tops? Collecting these can help your child feel like they are participating in school. Look into these items on the schools webpage or school newsletter.

Practice the routine

A few days prior to school starting – start practicing the morning routine. What will be order of the morning? You can write the routine (or have pictures) to help the child understand the morning routine. Where will essential items be located? (Backpack, lunch, water bottle, computer/ipad, etc… Keep these items in the same spot every day. Set the morning expectations. Will your child be able to watch TV or use the computer before school? Decide these rules prior to the first day of school.

Talk through the school day

Once you receive the child’s daily schedule start talking it out with your child. First you have recess (you will get to play on the playground and with friends) and then you will have math class. During math class you will practice counting and adding. Go through this pattern for each class throughout the day. It is important to talk through the lunch process. Will your child have cold lunch or hot lunch? You can talk to the teacher ahead of time to discuss the lunch room process. This way you can help your child understand the routine and expectations.


What to pack in your child’s carry-on luggage that will keep them entertained

Recently, our family took a trip to Colorado for a family event. I am not a seasoned traveler and often become stressed just thinking about traveling. My personal stress level increases just thinking about traveling with my two small children. However, this trip was a lot less stressful and I contribute a lot of it to the kids’ carry-ons.

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What did I pack in my kids’ carry-ons?

First, each child was given a rolling backpack that was personalized to their taste (colors, animals, Disney characters). I am a huge fan of rolling backpacks because pulling a backpack (especially for little children) is just easier than carrying it.

The Kids’ carry-on should be practical and meet their needs

The carry-on should meet the child’s needs for snacks, entertainment, temperature regulation but also be light enough for them to carry and easy enough for them to manage. The carry-on must also meet the guidelines of the airline and airline security.


I allowed the children to choose a few snacks for the airport and the plane. Here are eight snacks that are easy to include in the carry-on: crackers, fruit snacks, dried fruit, goldfish, pretzels, trail mix, granola bars, applesauce pouches, and boxed candy. Often times travel occurs during meals and it may not always be feasible to have a meal prior to travel at the airport. I also packed an empty water bottle that we filled prior to departure. (If you have water in your water bottle when you go through TSA they will make you throw it away).

Headphones and Tablets

Normally, I am not a fan of technology for children, however, traveling is the exception to the rule. Make sure that the apps that you download for the children to play can be played without the internet.

Activity Binder

For this trip, I put together a binder full of coloring sheets, activity sheets (mazes, look and finds, matching, etc…).

You can find some free printables here:

Airplane Printables

Airplane learning pack

Airplane for Kids

I put them into a binder and packed some colored pencils. This was a great activity that kept them occupied while waiting for departure.

Small Games

Small games easily fit into a carry-on and can offer fun and entertainment while waiting. Here are a few suggestions. I packed Uno and it was played often on the trip.

Fidget Toys

Fidget toys offer something to do with the hands while distracting the child and holding their attention. Here are a few that are great for a plane:

Pipe-cleaners can also be a fidget toy as they can be twisted and made into many designs.

Blanket and Stuffed animal

Packing your child’s blanket and favorite stuffed animal can help ease anxiety and bring a sense of comfort and home while on the trip.


Traveling this summer with Special Needs Children

Summer Vacation Traveling with Special Needs Children

Planning a summer vacation should be an exciting time for families as they prepare to seek out new adventures.  However, strong emotions often appear in both children and parents while planning and during the vacation.  Often when families of special needs children travel, the excitement for new adventure is often replaced with worry, anxiety, fear, and concern. 

I recently went on a road trip with my two children and little planned except the destination – the Cincinnati Zoo to see Fiona the Hippo.  I did not book hotels, plan meals, or other activities along the way.  Although the trip was an adventure and a test of everyone’s patience, I would not recommend this way of traveling and I will personally use the following strategies below for future travels next month.

Here are 15 Tips for planning an enjoyable Vacation

#1. Plan for Success

Ask yourself the following questions.  What do you want your family to get out of the vacation?  Is the vacation for relaxation? Is the vacation for family togetherness and bonding? Is the vacation for learning?  Is the vacation for adventure?  Set goals and be realistic.  Is it realistic to spend all day at the beach? Possibly.  Is it realistic to see three major attractions in one day? Possibly.  You must decide based on your family and your family’s needs.

#2. Be Brave! 

Start building your confidence by slowing picking destinations that are further and further from home.

#3. Planning is Everything! Do your research ahead of time.

Gather as much information about the upcoming vacation as possible.  Answer the following questions – When, Where, Who and What.  Establish an itinerary but allow for flexibility and back-up plans especially if planning activities outside.

#4. Consult with your child’s physician and be medically prepared

  • Carry a list of prescriptions drugs you child is taking and a copy of each prescription
  • Phone numbers and emails addresses of your physicians and specialists or access to your child’s mychart online
  • Carry your health insurance cards and phone numbers – Review your personal health plan and check for coverage where you will be visiting.  This will be extremely beneficial if you need medical care while on vacation.
  • Double check prescription needs 2 weeks ahead of time to make sure that you will have enough for the entire trip

#5. Pack Extra Supplies

It is important to pack extra clothes, snacks and activities.  I usually pack 3 extra days’ worth of clothing as spills and accidents can happen.

#6. Plan Down Time

It is important to remember that both children and adults will need some down time while traveling.  Often, time as adults we want to drag our children to every experience when traveling but remember that down time can help prevent burnout, tantrums, and other behaviors. Also, vacations are suppose to relax and refresh us.

#7. Bring comfort Items

Does your child have a special blanket, pillow or stuffy?  Bring it.  Make sure to double check that you have it before leaving each stop of your journey. It might help to give the stuffy name so you can always ask where “Ellie” is.

#8. Don’t Be Shy, Ask for accommodations.

Using assertive manners, let individuals know (restaurant hosts and waiters/waitresses), hotels, etc. what you need and expect them to make reasonable accommodations for your child’s special needs.  Most people and plans will be more than happy to help.  If they offer you an accommodation that won’t work, please politely decline, and explain why.  This is a great way to advocate for your child’s disability and needs.  Also, it is a great way provide disability awareness.

#9. Keep in mind this your family trip

You want to make it special for your special needs child but don’t forget about the other members of the family.  This vacation is about the whole family —- togetherness and bonding and fun.  This trip is about the family making memories that will last a lifetime.  Give special attention to your other children and your spouse.  By giving special attention to everyone they will be more willing to assist and be more cooperative when your attention is focused on your special needs child.

Keep points to remember – this trip or vacation is about making memories and togetherness – it is not about perfection and doing everything.  Safe Travels and Have Fun! Enjoy!


Self-care for the special needs parent

5-27-2021 Occupational Therapy Family Services, LLC

As I contemplate school coming to an end and summer fastly approaching, I ask myself wouldn’t now be a great time to take a much-needed break.  I mean a break for me and a break for all of us parents.  Why is giving yourself a break so hard for many parents?

As parents, we are responsible for a lot.  We are responsible for scheduling activities, planning and making meals, laundry, house-keeping tasks, play-dates, holidays, medical appointments, exercise, socialization and the list goes on and on and on.  In fact, it seems like the list of responsibilities never ends.  

All parents have the responsibility for caring for a little human life however, parents of children with special needs know and understand that these children require a little extra care.  They know that raising a special needs child can be challenging and oftentimes exhausting.  It can be easy to become overwhelmed with the organization and planning that is required for daily life.  It can appear that between doctor appointments and therapies there is not much time left for anything else.

It is important to remember that self-care for yourself is actually just as important as caring for your child.  As parents, we want to give all of ourselves to our children.  We often wear many hats all the time.  We want to be everything for our children.  We want to comfort them.  We want to meet all their needs all the time.  We can do this and we DO Do this.  However, it can be physically, emotional and mentally exhausting.  For these reasons finding time for yourself for self-care is even more important.

Please understand that no one solution will work for every family but maybe one of these suggestions might work for your family.

  • Find a support system. This can be family, friends, neighbors, other special needs parents, or support groups
  • Ask for help. Asking for help is a sign of strength.  Reach out to your pediatrician, teacher, minister, clergy, spouse, friends, family, neighbors, and parents of your child’s friends.
  • Give yourself permission to take a 5-10 minute break each day.  This could be having a cup of coffee in the morning, reading a book in the evening, or taking a long shower or a bath.
  • Exercise.  Join a gym that has daycare, find an exercise buddy, and include the kids.
  • Swap childcare.  Get a group together and swap childcare so each of you can run errands or have an afternoon off.  The kids will love socialization as well.
  • Work out a break with your co-parent. Take turns giving each other an afternoon off or an early evening.
  • Summer camps.  For longer breaks during the summer research summer camps that are specifically designed for special needs children. Knowing that counselors understand the special needs of your child can make being apart from your child a little easier.  Look into day programs and overnights.
  • Babysitter.  Locate a babysitter through an agency that has specially trained employees that can meet the needs of your child.
  • Research a play center or group therapies that have designated times for special needs children who have sensory, socialization or communication issues.  Occupational therapy family services, LLC has weekly social skills groups.
  • Research support services meant for families like yours.  Check out agencies in your county and state that have services for your special needs child.  These could include therapies, respite, activities, and everyday support.

Hopefully, one of the above options will work for your family.  Remember a little break can go a long way.


Counting and Giving Change – The Life Skill of Money


The other day, I was going through the McDonald’s drive-through and my total came to $11.52.  I took out a $20.00 bill and handed it to the teenager working at the window.  She looked at the computer screen, looked down at the open cashier drawer, put her hand in every coin slot appearing to pick up coins, and then turned to me and said, “I have your eight dollars but I can’t make your change so you can go to the next window.”  Maybe 48 cents change wouldn’t be a big deal to some, but I wanted all of my change. 

I said to the worker, I will give you 52 cents and you can give me another dollar.  She said, “can’t you just pay with a credit card.”  At this point, I took a very deep breath and offered to assist her with counting change.  She looked at me confused and stated, “you still want the change?”  I said yes.

Money skills are so essential for life.  Understanding money skills goes back to understanding math with a decimal point.  These skills are learned in the elementary years and developed more in the middle and high school years.

When reflecting on this post, I thought about my own children and how I could help them learn money skills for adulthood.  The topic of allowance came to mind.

Allowance can be beneficial as it can

  • Show kids how money transaction work
  • Teach kids what it takes to save and budget money
  • Gives kids a sense of responsibility and independence
  • Lets kids experience buyer’s remorse on a small scale

However, if allowance isn’t set up correctly it can be detrimental.  Check out this article 9 Mistakes to Avoid When Giving Kids an Allowance

At my house, we are not giving an allowance currently.  We have developed the philosophy of “being part of the family” and being part of “the team.” 

On weekends, each child is given five chores to complete.  These chores range from watering the plants, putting the shoes away to making their bed, etc…. Check out this article for age-appropriate chores

After their assigned chores they have the option to do extra chores to earn small amounts of money.  Each additional chore is assigned a monetary amount ranging from twenty-five cents to a dollar. 

The money each child earns from chores is theirs.  They get so happy when we count out the money they earn.  Their faces are so bright and their smiles so big.  They start talking about what they want to spend their newfound wealth on.  We have them research the item they want to spend money on and once they reach the needed amount (plus tax) then we take them to the store.  They pick it out and pay the cashier. 

The first time we took them to the store, they were so upset about taxes because the tax took more of their “hard-earned money.” I’m sure we can all relate to this.

Not only do we need to teach our children how to make change and how to earn money but we also need to teach them all about money.

Check out this article titled 13 Things All Financially Savvy Teens Should Know For Financially Literacy. 

At Occupational Therapy Family Services, LLC we specialize in social and life skills. Check out our services for classes that will meet your child’s needs.