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Local therapist offers tips on the best way to start the day

By ALEXANDRA HILL

The cover of “My Wake Up Book” by Joyce Olshan and Jonathan Herzog.

“Some mornings are a struggle.”

No truer words may ever have been written. When the alarm clock rings on that first day of school some kids are going to struggle. Other students may be great on day one, but seriously struggling after the newness wears off, say around day 15. 

As an occupational therapist, Joyce Olshan noticed that many of the techniques and ideas she used daily with her clients also could be beneficial to parents and teachers. She also noticed, after being around her sister and her sister’s grandchild, that there are many books about going to bed – for example, “Goodnight Moon” – but few about helping kids get up in the morning.

Adults have ways to wake up like alarm clocks and caffeine, but children often need some help easing into their days. Teachers don’t have time to attend to grumpy students and sometimes grumpy children can get labeled as bad kids, simply because they didn’t have the time in the morning to fully wake up.

When she turned 60, Olshan decided it was time to write the “My Wake Up Book,” she knew parents and students needed. 

It begins with a phrase often uttered by parents, “Time to wake up, sleepy head!” and then asks, “Under your blanket, oh so soft, do you need more time to snuggle?”

Through a series of exercises and suggestions, complete with rhymes, Olshan helps parents prepare their child for a good day ahead. 

It’s important to have sensory organizing, Olshan explained. “We all have sensory likes and dislikes.” Her book strives to help children and their parents find a wake-up routine that works best for them, one they can use on those days when “mornings are a struggle.” It is born out of the field of sensory integration, something she used frequently in her work as a therapist. 

In writing her book, she said she tried to keep to a therapeutic schedule. She wanted the book to be simple and open-ended. A few pages at the end of the book offer other suggestions to help kids wake up in the morning. The way Olshan sees it is that if one of the suggestions in the book triggers some sort of reaction or causes a child to think, it will lead the way. 

Olshan, a Chesterfield resident, said she had been thinking of writing a book like this for a long time, but one day the poems that you see in the book just came to her. She went to friends, family and other occupational therapists to get feedback and ideas on her book. But when she wrote it she didn’t have an artist. It took some digging, but she finally found a friend with a son who was a graphic artist.

Parkway North graduate Jonathan Herzog was the one who came up with the idea for the diverse family styles shown in the book. Olshan liked the idea of having a book with drawings to which all different kinds of people could relate. 

As for how she went about publishing it, Olshan said she has a good friend in the self-publishing business, Peggy Nehmen. When self-publishing a book, you normally have to be computer savvy and Olshan is not. Luckily, she said, her friend is. Olshan said that if she hadn’t had Nehmen’s help, her book would probably not exist today.

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