Ep 35: How to Help Kids Achieve Their Own Goals (A Real-Life Story from Nature-Based Practice)
Welcome to Therapy in the Great Outdoors, the podcast where we explore the business and practice of nature based pediatric therapy of all kinds. If you're an outdoor loving pediatric practitioner in the fields of occupational, physical, or speech therapy, social work, or mental health, This podcast will help you start and grow a successful nature based practice or program.
I am the ever honest, always a hundred percent real, you'll hear it all on this podcast, Dr. Laura Park Figueroa. I'm a pediatric OT with over 20 years of experience and I run a thriving nature based practice with profitable locations in two different states and multi six figures in revenue. I also host the free online community at Therapy in the great outdoors.
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Laura: Hello friends. I was thinking about what to share with you all on this episode. And. I'm recording impromptu here because we had a really cool thing happened in our outdoor OT group today. in my practice. And I wanted to share it and I thought it would be a good story to share with you all, to explain application of a strategy and an approach that you can use in treatment with children. The co-op approach, which is the cognitive orientation to daily occupational performance. They shorten it. Co-op C O hyphen Oop. The co-op approach is something I've known about for a really long time. I actually included it. As one of the. Elements or kind of strategies that you can use in my nature based therapy approach, the Contigo approach. When I first wrote the manual for the first training I ever did for the Contigo approach, Contigo stands for connection and transformation and the great outdoors. For those of you who may be new to the podcast. Welcome. This is the approach I developed in 2019, and I first led a nature-based retreat in 2019 to teach elements of the Contigo approach to a group of about 27 therapists. And at that retreat I wrote a manual. I think it was about a hundred pages long. It was pretty robust. And one of the, one of the approaches that I included as influencing how we do Therapy. Outdoors with children in my practice when we use the Contigo approach, was this. Co-op approach and it is a cognitive approach to therapy and I wanted. I'm not an expert in it. I have not attended their training. I should say this very clearly before. So please. I will give you some other resources to look at, to delve into this approach. A little more. But the co-op approach is something I knew about for a while. And today in a treatment session, I absolutely. Got to implement it. So I want to share that story with you all. First let's talk about what the co-op approach is now. There is a really great, I will link it in the show notes today. There is a really great episode that Sarah Lyon just did. On the OT potential podcast. So I also want to say, I always feel like I'm saying this on the podcast here. This podcast is for all professionals who work with children. This approach, the co-op approach. This is going to get confusing because mine is called the Contigo approach. And this is the co-op approach. So I should just say co-op. Co-op is not just usable in OT. You can use it in any profession that works with children. And I think it is just a really great way of interacting with kids. The the system that they teach. So I'm going to share with you that system. And I do want to say, go, listen, if you want more information about this approach after you listen to this episode, go listen to that episode that Sarah Lyon did. With Helen. Polatajko I hope I'm saying her last name. I even listened to Sarah's podcast right before this, to try to say her name or last name, so Helen Polatajko is the creator of the co-op approach and she has published. She is widely published and has. Tons of evidence behind this approach. So it is very much an evidence-based practice and Contigo. My nature based therapy approach is all about making sure that we are doing evidence-based therapy when we are out in nature. And so that is one of the reasons that I included co-op as a strategy and a method inside of my treatment manual just recommended it's in the section on. Kind of evidence to support nature based therapy. And this is one of the things that I talk about using a nature-based practice. Okay. So what is the co-op approach and how is it different than what we would typically see? Maybe in the way we maybe traditionally in some therapy settings with kids have done therapy. So the. The implementation of the approach. Goes by a system of goal plan do and check. Okay. So you're going to make a goal. You're going to make a plan for the goal. You're going to do the goal, do the plan, and then you're going to check. You're going to circle back and reflect, and that's a big part of. My approach in Contigo is reflection. That's a huge part of, I think how we learn as therapists is to reflect on our practice. So goal plan do check. Now again, I'm not an expert. I want to get to telling you the story about how I implemented this today. And a treatment session. So I want to just make sure that I'm not speaking here as an expert. I'm a little nervous to even put this out there, but I just want to share with you the reality of trying something out, and in your practice. First of all goal, that's the first step of co-op. The key thing in co-op is that you are going to have the child. The child.
Decide what the goal is. Okay. And this is different than how we even do it. In my practice. We work with some kids that are too young to really Articulate their own goals. When they're three or four, it's really hard to have a kid articulate a goal, then. But in particular, this group we were working with today with seven to nine year olds and kids they're seven and nine years old are very capable of saying what they would like to do. Most of them are. And that is the first step. Is that the child or the person that you are using this approach with this is not always used in pediatrics, of course, but the person is the one who has the say about what the goal is. Okay. The second part is plan. So you make a plan together. And part of my understanding of co-op as well is that the therapist is there to facilitate the thinking, but not to actually like. Give the solutions. Okay. And this is a huge part of inquiry-based learning, which is another thing in the Contigo approach. Where in inquiry based learning with children. You're asking questions to them or asking questions to help them think through things rather than just giving them the direct answer. So that is a big part of what we do in the Contigo approach as well. So working with the child to. I get a plan in place, have them make a plan, say what they're going to do, then they're going to do the plan. So they try it out. And that's the do. And then you check and that's the reflection part. So what happened today? Seven minutes of telling you the background. What happened today was that we were doing a Fort building activity with some children. So there were four kids and one of the kids was really adamant about wanting to get a branch down from a tree. He wanted a really long branch and he didn't like any of the other branches that were on the ground. And so he took a rope that we had nearby. First he had this really thin rope and we asked if he would like some thicker rope. But we showed him some other varieties. He picked the, he picked a thicker one and he wanted, he had this great idea that he was going to. Throw the rope over the tree branch, a pretty significantly long tree branch. I'd say the branch was probably 10 feet long. And then we would be able to pull the branch down from the tree, pull the branch off the tree by, by yanking on the rope underneath. And so for. Probably a good 30 minutes, I would say 20 or 30 minutes. He was attempting to throw this rope over the branch. The way he was attempting to throw it was by. Having the pile of rope his feet and taking the very end of the rope and trying to Chuck it over the branch, which was, I don't know, eight to 10 feet above his head. And as you might. Imagine this was not very successful. So very rarely did he get the rope to even touch the branch that he was looking for. And he tried various branches. He tried kind of different locations. He tried doing it over smaller branches to see if that would work, but he just couldn't really effectively get the rope over the branch and. Our volunteers and myself and the other therapists that were there, we were all really good about not. Queuing him, just letting him keep trying, like letting him we were kinda nearby and maybe occasionally we'd make a comment, like nice throw or, but really, we weren't. We were standing nearby and supporting in a positive way, but we weren't commenting a lot. Which is exactly what we want. He was very in his element, very happy, very excited to be doing it and just trial and error over and over. And eventually I sat there thinking about co-op and I was like, how could I get him? Cause I'm in my brain, of course, thinking, just tie a rock to the end of it, buddy. And throw it over that branch. Cause I've hung so many tree swings that way. That's just naturally. Where my brain goes. When I think about trying to get a rope over a branch is tie something heavy on the end of it and throw it over the branch. So I think I think I said to him I'm going to say, buddy, his name is not buddy, but I don't want to say his name on the podcast. I said, buddy, I wonder. How has that working out for you? How what's the, oh, no, actually what I said first was. Buddy. What's the goal here. I wonder what the goal is. And he said, I want to get that branch down or something like that. And I said how has that. How has that working out for you? How has your plan working out for you? And he was like, not very well. And I was like, okay. Yeah, I noticed that I noticed it's. It seems like it's having a hard time getting up over that branch. I wonder if there's something you could do differently. Is there anything you could do differently? And that was enough to have him say. I maybe I could tie a stick on the end of it. And I was like, why don't we try that? And so he tied a stick on the end of it. It was a really small stick, like a fi six inch, five inch stick, maybe. Tied a stick on the end. It got closer, but he couldn't get it all the way over to the branch. And then he said, I need a bigger stick. I need to tie it. I need more weight. I need a bigger stick to put on it. And I just looked at one of our volunteers and was like, yes. Cause that. Is what we want to see. That's what we want to see is children problem solving for themselves. It would have been very easy for me or one of the other adults there. To say to him, You know what? I've hung a lot of tree swings and I, I always use a rock on the end. Do you want to tie a rock on the end and throw it over the branch? And of course he would have been like, yes, but he wouldn't have had the internal. Sense of pride of coming up with that solution on his own. Okay. And this is part of the Contigo approach , but also part of the co-op. Method and approach to. Is letting children have that. Moment letting children have the moment where they have come to the solution on their own. And sometimes it takes a really long time. Myself and the other adults who were there. We're just, I felt like I was like sitting on my hands and biting my tongue to not say anything to him because he was happy and persistent and trial and trial and trial and trial over and over. He needed that. And meanwhile, as an OT, I'm also thinking he's getting a lot of good proprioceptive input and bilateral. Movement, like just Chuck in that. Chuck in that rope up multiple times, like aiming and the motor control he needed to try to adjust. It was just, it was a very rich opportunity for him because he was so motivated to do it.
So when he finally got the stick. That a big enough stick over it. He probably threw five more times with the stick, with the larger stick on it. And he just launched it perfectly over that branch. And this was a very, I should have mentioned this. This was a very dead tree. So the property that we use for our Wednesday groups here in Madison, Wisconsin, where I live, my practice is still in California. I run both locations, but I live in Wisconsin now . So the property that we use has some trees that were damaged in a fire years ago. And so this was a tree that was very dead. And so we knew the branches were he knew the branch would likely come down. We broken branches off of these trees before. He launched that stick perfectly over the branch and he just. Another peer came over and helped him get the other side down. They used a stick. It didn't go all the way over and back down the side. So it was high up in the air. They problem solve to get a stick, a longer stick to try to knock the other stick down further so that they could reach it and then pull the rope all the way down over. And then he tugged and that branch just came. Down to the ground, perfectly landed. It was, I didn't get it on video , but we were all like amazed and excited for him and he was so ecstatic. And so it was just a really cool. It was a really cool application of co-op of really helping a child. Think through the goal. What's the goal. Making a plan doing the goal and then checking, obviously he got it down, right? But I probably could have done w one of us, any of us there probably could've done a little bit more processing with them, even afterwards of what worked and what didn't. So one of the things we do in the Contigo approach in my nature based approach is we. We use these three reflection questions. What went well, what went wrong? What will I do differently next time? And so those are questions that we use to debrief after our sessions often. And then we also use those questions with children and just say, Hey, how could we change what we do later to have a better outcome?
If we didn't like the outcome, or maybe we did like it. And we want to do the same thing again, But that reflection piece is so important. So I probably could have done a little bit better job going back to him and actually even checking in about what was successful, but he was just so happy and it was a really cool. Story about a real life application of co-op in practice, in a nature based therapy session. So
I thought I'd share that with you all. I will put the link to some information about the co-op approach on their website. As well as a link to the OT potential episode. In which Sarah Lyon interviews. Helen Polatajko. And there is just such a good episode. I would highly recommend that you all listen to it. I believe their CEUs available to if you go over there to listen to that episode And probably pay, I don't know how Sarah has set it up, but see, you use may be available for that. Yeah, that's it, that's a short episode for y'all today, but I just wanted to share that story because I just thought it was so cool. And it's a really easy thing to apply in practice, although, easy to remember, but also. Really got to bite your tongue and just. Not give kids the answers. That's it for today and I will see you all or talk to you all. Next week. Bye.
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