Depending on where you live, school based physical therapists are winding down the school year...finishing up evals, caught up in IEP frenzies, planning for summer school...and also thinking about summer programs. I thought this would be a good time to remind us of the F-Words of Childhood Disability....
Grounded in research and the context of the ICF model, the F-words are a reminder of what is fundamentally important for youth with disabilities. Because of our training, we can be easily focused on body structure function impairments, and the lists of what a child cannot do. The F-words help us to focus on what is truly important for well-being. How will I embed the F-words in my recommendations for summer activity? Here is a partial list:
1. Function: Home programs need to be functionally based, and better yet within the context of a routine...and ideally selected by the child/youth. A child who needs to work on standing balance could help mom with a daily cooking task while using their stander/gait trainer.
2. Family: There are so many family activities that can provide a therapeutic benefit: family walks on trails help with aerobic capacity, time at the playground helps to increase physical activity level, time at the pool provides a weightless environment to practice walking, sitting, floating...
3. Fitness: If you follow me, you know I believe that fitness is foundational for function. Here, I suggest we consider the components of fitness and how we can address them in our summer programs. Cardiovascular Endurance, Muscular Strength, Muscular endurance, Body Composition...and I say don't worry about flexibility...if you take care of the others flexibility takes care of itself. Many of these components can be addressed via thoughtful home activity programs.
4. Fun: They are kids. They are young people. They are teens. They are young adults. They want to have fun...hey wait...don't we all want to have fun? When you exercise, do you do something you hate? If you do, you probably don't do it very long. Consider the preferences of the individual to make the program stick and increase compliance. I recently shared of using Tabata inspired exercise to meet this very need.
5. Friends: As humans, we can be motivated by the social impacts of activity. The social benefits of physical activity can be a facilitator to continued physical activity. Perhaps some teens can go to a local rec center and exercise, some elementary aged kids can take a dance class, or the kids can get together at their community pool at a designated time/place.
6. Future: Ultimately, we recommend programs and activities so that we can affect an individual's future.
So the F-words, are really quite simple to embed, but what would a home program look like that encompassed all of them? Here are some considerations:
+ Educate the parents of the youth you work with of physical activity level expectations and their thoughts on how to meet them. Brainstorm ways to meet those levels WITH THEM.
+Consider what is already in your community....and repeat your searches often, follow list servs for parents, know your resources
+ Advocate for programs that support the kids you work with...we had a need for a fitness program for youth with ID. I found out that the director wanted to do a program but did not have a teacher...I suggested some places to look (special education and adapted PE teachers in local schools) and consulted with the teacher on activities and structure of the program. They have run 3 sessions now back to back and plan to expand. The kids AND the families participate. A win for everyone.
+ Consider how technology might help...online exercise classes, use of apps to increase exercise compliance for teens...use of Fitbits or other motion trackers...all can help.
Here's to implementing the F-words for all of us!