The HSE Primary Care Occupational Therapy Department in Galway has launched a new initiative aimed at guiding children in their transition to both primary and secondary school.
Occupational Therapists have created a series of online workshops for children and young people which are available to view on YouTube and include themes such as how to organise yourself at home and at school, how to tie your shoe laces and how to make new friends.
Áine Murray, Senior Occupational Therapist explains how the project came about, “Covid-19 has been an unwelcome visitor to the lives and homes of families in Ireland and children have been forced to adapt to the demands lockdown has imposed. Now the transition back to school beckons, with words like blended learning, classroom bubbles and pods ringing in young ears and minds”.
“The question posed by many parents is ‘How can we prepare our children for the transition back to school?’ The impact of isolation, less contact with friends, hobbies and pastimes on hold, all have taken their toll”.
“During lockdown, our Department listened to the needs expressed by parents, the time constraints imposed on them, and the vast amount of information coming on stream. The experience of being overwhelmed was widespread. One of the biggest concerns expressed by parents is that everyday life skills children practiced on a day to day basis have now regressed”.
“A key part of our work each summer is holding workshops to support children into their transition into primary and secondary school. This year we came up with a solution to provide these supports while maintaining social distance and addressing the new realities of school life with Covid-19 public health measures in place”.
Galway Primary Care has developed 21 short videos that support children and families to develop the skills needed to implement healthy school routines and make the transition back to school and the transition from primary to secondary a little less daunting. Also included is a link to resources that help parents create a toolkit for their child to help them to become more independent.
“The first step in building families’ new normal will be focusing on the familiar, the everyday routines and simplicity of completing the same actions, in the same sequence in the morning and at night time. This will give comfort to a child who then knows what to expect”.
“In tandem with this new initiative, our Occupational Therapy services have continued to maintain active connections with families by using the HSE ‘Attend Anywhere’ telehealth platform which uses video-conferencing technology. This has allowed us to maintain a vital connection and is now part of families’ weekly routine” Áine Murray concluded.
Commenting on the launch of the new online resources for schoolchildren and their families, Frank Feighan TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Public Health, Well-being and the National Drugs Strategy, said, “I am delighted to see that the HSE Galway Occupational Therapy Department has developed this great resource which should help children and families not just in Community Healthcare West but right across the country”.
“In light of current challenges, communities everywhere must move forward with understanding and compassion, and everyone must play their part as children and teachers prepare for what will be a very different learning environment come September. Preparation is key, and introducing some of these simple strategies will give children the skills needed within the school environment,” Minister Feighan concluded.
To access the free online workshops, go to YouTube.com and search for ‘Community Healthcare West’. In addition, each video has links to further evidence-based Covid-19 resources. More information on the transition to primary school and secondary school workshops is available by contacting [email protected]