Ep. 9: How Occupational Therapy Helps Kids with Leah Hiller

Dec 22, 2020 | 0 comments

Now more than ever, many parents and families are seeking support. Maybe your child is struggling with distance learning. Maybe your child is having difficulty with self-regulation. Or, maybe things are just hard and you don’t know why. Sound about right? This is such a challenging time and that is why I am so excited to bring today’s guest to the Diverse Thinking · Different Learning Podcast.

Today my guest is Leah Hiller, a pediatric occupational therapist, an educational consultant, and a former Jewish day school teacher. She not only breaks down what occupational therapy is, how it works, and how it can benefit a child, but she gives us a toolkit of amazing opportunities to help our children thrive. Some of her recommendations I plan to try with my own children! 

So listen on to find out more about occupational therapy, what occupational therapists do, and some sensory strategies that help kids self-regulate.


Show Notes:

[2:18] – Leah defines occupations as things that we do everyday. As an occupational therapist, her job is to help kids thrive in their daily occupations. This could be a variety of things that differ per child.

[3:15] – Now more than ever, Leah says that the struggle she is seeing the most is self-regulation. This is not a surprise as we are in a challenging time with the COVID-19 pandemic.

[4:16] – Now that parents are working more closely with their children with homeschooling and distance learning, the problems that may have been hinted at by a teacher in the past are more noticeable and parents are seeking support.

[4:59] – Leah also works with children that are labeled with autism, motor delays, and ADHD.

[5:54] – Occupational therapists look at things a little differently as they are looking at function. 

[6:49] – Because so many aspects of our lives have changed with the pandemic, struggles may show up. Children may have been functioning well in their normal routine but may have difficulty in some areas now.

[8:14] – Although the pandemic is awful, this could be used as an opportunity for parents and children to identify these difficulties and find a toolkit to help address them.

[9:31] – Leah shares Proprioceptive “Zoom” Breaks which can help get kids in the “just right” zone. She explains the science behind them and gives examples.

[11:33] – Another important thing we need to make sure we’re explicit about with children is why the Zoom breaks are important. 

[12:29] – By having a conversation with your child about taking these breaks to do something active with our bodies is great modeling and validating for them.

[14:41] – The strategies Leah shares are great recommendations for educators who are navigating through distance and virtual learning as well.

[15:38] – Leah shares a story about how this time is a great opportunity to troubleshoot. One size fits all does not apply here.

[17:11] – Flexibility is key. The learning environment for each child will be different because each child has different needs.

[18:50] – The flexibility also gives your child the opportunity to self-regulate. With collaboration, kids will discover what works best for them and what doesn’t work.

[20:41] – Leah and Karen discuss The Executive C.H.E.F.S. program, and Leah defines what executive functioning is.

[22:39] – Leah started bringing her kids into the process of making dinner and realized all of the tasks to cook used fine motor skills.

[23:43] – In addition to fine motor skills, Leah noticed an increase in different vocabulary and the willingness to try new things.

[24:49] – After trying OT through Zoom, Leah shifted to cooking with her families online and it was so much more effective. 

[25:50] – Because it didn’t address social skills, Leah created The Executive C.H.E.F.S. program as a group of kids that cooked together in a virtual setting to discuss what they were doing and eating.

[28:56] – The program helped parents as well by giving a slight relief in their dinner routine.

[29:48] – In addition to the C.H.E.F.S. program, Leah ran a parent workshop for executive functioning, which helped parents take a step back.

[31:28] – Making mistakes is part of the learning process and we need to normalize that to give our children the opportunity to thrive.

[32:01] – Leah and Karen discuss the “just right” challenge which is applicable in all areas of life.

[34:34] – Leah feels that she feels like she makes an impact and is the most successful when she can take a step back and the kids can function on their own and when kids can teach each other.


About Our Guest:

Leah Hiller provides teachers and parents with the strategies, support, and evidence-based resources to help children thrive at home, school, and play. In addition to providing individualized OT services in her private practice, Leah offers workshops for parents and educators, and she teaches graduate courses in special education. Leah lives in Los Angeles with her family, and her OT therapy studio is located in a natural setting – her backyard.


Connect with Leah Hiller:

Links and Resources: