My TimberNook Story
When I first became an occupational therapist in the school system, I was so thankful to get a school health support services position so I could work with children as I had always dreamed of. Sadly, it did not take long to become discouraged and concerned. Nearly all of my referrals were similar, if not identical: assess fine motor, sensory and attention issues. These children were typically developing outside the classroom, meaning they did not have specific labelled disabilities (besides ADHD in many of them), yet they were all struggling in the classroom for the same reasons: they could not sit still, they had trouble concentrating, they had poor printing skills and many were highly sensitive to sounds and textures. The children on my list had waited three years to receive OT services and they got 4-6 visits over the school year, then I was pressured to discharge them to move on to the next. Without an EA, there was no effective carryover of therapy ideas into the classroom and with limited time to spend with these children, I felt quite ineffective. I would go to the teachers with what would become my usual recommendations: “body breaks” so they can move more, a list of focus strategies, and cursive for the illegible printing full of reversed letters. That particular year in the schools caused me many sleepless nights and left me wondering why so many children were having these same issues at school. I struggled to advocate for children in an educational environment that appeared to be drastically different from the one that I grew up in. The years of plenty of recess and hands-on learning opportunities seemed to no longer exist; the new normal was to focus on math, writing, and spending most of the day sitting still and being quiet.
Over the next seven years, I made it my mission to read everything possible about child development. As I read, I recognized the importance of true play, face-to-face connection, time in nature, and adequate movement opportunities. In recent years, these things have been significantly reduced for both adults and children alike. When I read Angela Hanscom’s book, “Balanced and Barefoot,” all of my research seemed to come together in one book and it all made sense! I knew I had to become a TimberNook provider. Finally, I could work with children as an occupational therapist in a way that made sense to me. TimberNook combines health promotion/prevention with therapy in such an absolutely simple, but brilliant way: inspire children to play the way they are meant to, enable them to explore their natural curiosities, and allow them to move freely in the way they were designed to do. In other words, restore and enrich the play children so desperately need.
At TimberNook, I am in my glory as I witness the children practice every skill an occupational therapist could hope for without adults directly intervening for any of it. An environment created with great intention, as well as time and space outdoors, are all these children need to inspire hours of play, therapy, and movement. Now, instead of spending my days working against the system and feeling ineffective in my efforts, I spend my days in awe of how capable children truly are when given the right environment and opportunities. I have finally found a way to truly help children – and this brings absolute joy into my life.
Author: Jade Rogers
TimberNook Elgin is an outdoor enrichment program for all children located in Port Stanley, ON. You can find out more info at www.timbernook.com/provider/timbernook-elgin