Inspirational "Potty Talk"

By Christie Griffith, TLC Occupational Therapist

If you come to the TLC Learning Center and happen to use the adult bathrooms during your visit, you might notice that we often have things posted on the backs of the stall doors and/or walls.  A little “potty talk” for your reading enjoyment while you are a captive audience sitting on the throne.   They might be inspirational, humorous, thought provoking, instructional, etc. but most importantly, they change on a weekly or monthly basis to keep your interest and to keep teaching new things.

One item that often makes an appearance here is a copy of the current handout for parents called Skills Sheets by Sandbox Learning (also available at that is a part of our Pyramid Plus Positive Behavior Development program at TLC.  It offers practical suggestions to parents for a variety of topics such as Holiday Social Skill Strategies, Having Guests and Visiting Others, or Teaching Skills for Playing with Others.  Another parent handout that may appear on the walls is from the Backpack Connection Series (from and may include topics such as How to Teach Your Child to Take Turns, How to Help Your Child to Stop Whining, and How to Have Your Child Have a Successful Bedtime.

But “potty talk” is not just for parents.  Sometimes the topics are relevant for staff and other adults who visit.  Brief articles torn from magazines or printed off the internet may offer suggestions for identifying your personality type, ideas for how to slow down and take time to enjoy your life, healthy food choices, or humorous stories to inspire, educate and entertain you for those brief moments of private time in the stall.

“Potty Talk” can also be adapted for children and teens.  Funny pictures or cartoons, schedule reminders of upcoming events, inspirational sayings, or very short stories can be posted for their entertainment.  They may even learn some new things without even realizing it! 

So, I encourage you to incorporate a little “potty talk” into your own life.  It can be useful at work or at home.  If you don’t want to keep putting tape on and pulling it off of your wall consider some alternative ways of posting- hang a small chalk board or cork board on the door or wall nearby, tape or pin up a plastic clear sheet protector for papers that you can slide things into and out of, or use reusable mounting putty to stick things up temporarily. Turns for posting can be rotated through family members or employees to lessen the burden on just one person, if desired.  Ideas for what to post can be found in magazines, newspaper articles, comics, online searches, etc.  Or come on in to the TLC Learning Center and visit our bathrooms for a little inspiration!

And while we’re talking about potties, remember that children do not have to be potty trained to begin preschool at TLC. Teachers work with kids to help them become “potty talk” ready, so they can join in the extra for minutes of learning and inspiration, too!

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Teaching Your Child to Request Attention Politley

By Shari Karmen, TLC Therapeutic Services Manager and Occupational Therapist

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“Mom! Mom!” (Louder, with a tug now) “Moooommm!”

Have you ever been in this situation while you were talking to someone else? I know I have! Here at TLC, we teach kids how to get attention appropriately. It is a useful, life-long skill that kids, and some adults even, have to learn.
When kids are trying to get attention, they will frequently whine, yell, and throw themselves on the floor. All of this just to get your attention. Eventually, you give in and attend to this inappropriate behavior. The child learns that this behavior gets them what they want. We call this reinforcing negative behavior, and the end result is that the behavior never goes away, but only strengthens.

How can you change a child who uses this negative behavior to get attention? Teach your child how to get your attention appropriately. At TLC, we teach kids to say “tap tap” while they tap you or a friend on the shoulder to get your attention. You can then politely take a break from your conversation to attend to the child. This is an appropriate way for a child to get your attention. To make the skill stick, it needs to be used in all situations with consistency. Appropriate attention-seeking needs to be taught and reinforced at home, school, and out in the community. 

To practice, get down on your child’s level, tap her on the shoulder, get eye contact, and start your conversation. Then practice this over and over in pretend play, on the playground, and at the grandparents’ home. Let your child know that you are happy with how they are getting your attention. You could say, “Wow, I like the way you tapped me on my shoulder to get my attention!” When you see your child having difficulty, you could say, “It looks like you need something. Tap me on the shoulder and I will be happy to help you.”

Teaching this skill now reinforces positive behavior for the long-term. It reduces challenging behavior and helps your child to get their needs met in a constructive way. This, and many other positive behavior support approaches are taught through the Pyramid Plus Approach, a philosophy that we at TLC have adopted. Go to the Teaching Assistance Center for Social Emotional Intervention (TACSEI) for more helpful hints. 

As I’m writing this at my desk at TLC, my little three year old friend Charlotte is sitting next to me and coloring. She just turned to me, said “tap tap” while she touched my shoulder and then showed me the pink flower she was coloring!

The Pyramid Plus board for parents at tlc. TLC uses pyramid plus to teach positive behavior development, including polite attention seeking

The Pyramid Plus board for parents at tlc. TLC uses pyramid plus to teach positive behavior development, including polite attention seeking

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Positive Feedback: Making Deposits in Everyone's "Bank"

by Kathy Keith, TLC Occupational Therapist

Pyramid Plus is a positive behavior development program and a philosophy we embrace at TLC.  Pyramid Plus promotes social-emotional literacy and development in children through teachings and tools that help caregivers recognize and identify a child's feelings, and help children recognize and assess their own feelings. Pyramid Plus also helps caregivers identify challenges during interactions with a child, and then identify solutions for these challenges that the child helps facilitate and implement. Oftentimes at TLC, I watch kids ages 3, 4, and 5 identifying challenges and implementing solutions in a way some adults I come into contact with can not. One former preschooler, Alistair, told his preschool teacher, "I have a solution kit in my mind!" These are the kinds of tools Pyramid Plus gives children to be compassionate problem solvers.

My training in this program has provided me with many “A-ha” moments, and has benefited me both within my therapy practice and at home with my own kids. One thing that has impacted me significantly seems so simple now: the idea of “deposits” and “withdrawals.”  According to Pyramid Plus (and common sense, if I think about it), children need 5 "deposits," or positive comments/interactions with adults, for every "withdrawal." So every time we tell kiddos “don’t,” “stop,” ask questions that require a specific answer (example: “what color is that?”), use a loud voice, make demands, or tell them “no," we are taking withdrawals from their “bank.”  

When a withdrawal is made, we need to deposit 5 positive things (compliments, words of appreciation, non-verbal and verbal praise, active listening) in order to balance the child's "bank."  It is important that these deposits are very specific. “Good job” is positive, but too general.  A general phrase like "good job" could be replaced with:

•    “I like the way you…”
•    “You must be proud of yourself for…”
•    “Tell me what you like best about your creation”
•    “WOW! What a fabulous job you have done of…”
•    “Excellent idea for…”
•    “Give me an EXTRA HUGE high five for…”

Staff here at TLC are working on putting into practice what we preach.  We have a “Positive Piggy” board hanging in the hallway where we can write and display the words of thanks and appreciation that we have for our co-workers and friends.  It has been a fun opportunity to honor the staff for all the work they do everyday.  When you think about it, we could ALL probably use a few more positive deposits, and it's so easy to fill someone's "bank," whether they are a child or a grown-up.

Kids & Transitions

By Kathy Keith, TLC Occupational Therapist

Transitions can be hard… for all of us. This is something I am acutely aware of during this current season we like to call “back to school.” As a mom and an Occupational Therapist, I regularly see the challenges associated with transition periods in kids (and sometimes, grown-ups too).  These can range from the transition of going from kindergarten into 1st grade, to transitioning between play activities, to transitioning from just getting out of the house and into the car. Personally, I see the flurry of disorganization and dole out hundreds of reminders trying to get my own crew out the door in the morning (do I really need to remind a 12 year old to brush her teeth?). Professionally, I often see families with children who are unable to seamlessly transition from activity to activity. 

The following strategies are a few ways that may help with difficult transition times, and will hopefully help with increasing independence as well!

  • Create a routine

Children crave routine and structure! It helps them feel safe and understand what will be happening next, or what to expect. For example, a bedtime routine could be: jammies on, brush teeth, one book, then bed.

If bedtime always looks the same, it can increase the child’s independence in completing the steps themselves, and decrease struggles with caretakers.

A schedule to help make transitions run smoothly

  • Make a schedule

Kiddos also respond well to visual schedules. At TLC, we use pictures to show the kids what the day will look like. The pictures are arranged in order of when parts of the day happen (circle time, snack, outside, free play). If the day will look different from a typical day for any reason, the change is noted in the schedule. A child I see at TLC was very anxious about what he would be doing during our sessions. He would ask questions repeatedly and become very upset if there was something in the room that was unfamiliar to him when he walked in. We have a routine now, of sitting together first thing and drawing our schedule on the board.  It allows him to understand what his time with me will look like, gives him some control of the activities, and keeps him organized as we mark off the activities that we have completed together.  His anxiety has lessened significantly throughout his time coming to TLC, and now he is much more able to try novel things.

Schedules can be as specific or as general as you need. Some kiddos benefit from a personal schedule that they keep with them, while others can check in with a general schedule to help keep them organized and knowledgeable throughout the day. At home, you can experiment with something as simple as a white board that allows you to draw pictures or write words depending on what is appropriate or works for your child.  It can be specific like the morning routine, or it can be more broad, as in what will happen that next day, or week (or both!).

At our house, typing up a general list of “to-do’s” before getting out the door helps immensely. Instead of me needing to ask what has and has not been done (“Did you brush your teeth?  Did you pack your lunch?  Did you get your book?  Do you have your backpack?”), my one direction is: “check your list.” 

A photo routine that can be used at home

  • Give consistent cues

Transitioning between activities can be challenging, too. Giving a consistent visual cue (turning off or dimming the lights), giving a “2 minute” warning or singing a transition song, can help prepare the child for change.  These transition songs are nothing complex.  Mine often consist of a silly song about what we are completing and what will be next and is regularly sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “BINGO”.

We all benefit from the comfort of predictability.  For our kiddos, providing routines and schedules not only helps with some of the struggles related to transitions and change, but helps them develop a sense of security and control, and supports increased confidence and independence.  This is what we all want for all our kids.

A photo schedule on Velcro in a TLC classroom

To learn more about how working with an Occupational Therapist may help your child, or to learn about how our classrooms help build independence in children, contact TLC at (303)776-7417.