The five children were bouncing on exercise balls during their group session with Jeni Desmond, occupational therapist, when she suddenly asked them to stop. “It’s one of my favorite ways to help my patients become more aware of their body and the mind-body connection,” she said. “I have them check their pulse and then we practice breathing exercises and notice how quickly we can slow our body down, slow our breathing down.”

Jeni will also adjust the room settings to help the children become aware of how the environment can affect their emotions. For some kids, bright lights can be a stressor but for others, dim light can produce stress. Some like background music while others do not. “Fidget” devices also can help with self-regulation.

The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit at Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center cares for children and teens when they are most vulnerable. The CAPU is an acute care facility, and most children are there for one to two weeks.

Occupational therapy is one of the treatments offered to help children learn body awareness and to self-regulate their behavior.

“We really appreciate donor support – your generous donations give us the opportunity to provide the environment and the tools we need to increase coping, self-regulation, body awareness and understanding of the mind-body connection,” said Jeni. “With these tools we can have better engagement, more participation and better outcomes. Thanks to you, we can prepare them for the next step.”

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