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Ep 82 Supporting Child Development with Nature with Amber Scherkenbach

An interview with nature-based occupational therapist, Amber Scherkenbach.

Once the birth is over and tiny humans a snuggled up with their caregivers, who do we call with child development questions?

Amber describes herself as a “baby doula” an expert in all things development from birth to 6 years of age.

In the episode she describes the traditional Occupational Therapy environment, and why pursuing OT in a nature environment has an edge on any man-made gyms.

Amber offers consultations with families and also offers tummy time and toddler groups to leverage the power of parenting in community.

Learn more about Momma Earth LLC, nature-based occupational therapy with Amber.

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Well, I am super grateful for the growing amount of support. There are for those that are growing tiny humans and giving birth to tiny humans. And especially in that very precious. Uh, fourth trimester stage, but I do wonder where are the supports for that really precious development stage from To just a few years of life. 

And Amber Scherkenbach here in this episode, talks all about. All things development. And where parents can really turn to get support if they notice their little one struggling to assimilate or, or adjust to their environments, or a notice that there are sensory changes or delays in development that are impacting their day to day functioning. 

Amber not only shares that education and insight. Um, through her occupational therapy lens, but then teaches us how to use that accessible nature. Our backyard can be a huge area and option for us to develop and support those little ones. And she shares exactly how this works and what this can look like. It’s a very, very interesting episode, especially if you, if you’re somebody like me, who I kind of understood OT, um, but didn’t really understand. 

All that OT can truly help, um, help us with, especially as parents or caregivers of tiny humans. All right a few words from our sponsors before we dig in.

[00:03:50] Cynthia: 

I am so excited to introduce you to Amber Scherkenbach. She is the owner and operator of Mama Earth llc, providing nature based occupational therapy services and enrichment programs to children and their families. From birth to six years old, she is a mama to a rainbow baby and has been with her partner since college.

Amber’s a registered and licensed occupational therapist with over 15 years of experience working with children and adults with disabilities across a variety of settings. Amber’s mission is to empower littles and their leaders, mama’s, dads, papas, and caregivers alike to thrive in their day to day activities while building strong foundations of development to grow from.

So here we are with Amber. Welcome . 

[00:04:35] Amber: Hello. Thank you. 

[00:04:36] Cynthia: Amber, I know that you have this beautiful business, and I want, I wanna know a little more about your own background. Your childhood, your story what brought you into this space of occupational therapy and nature? 

[00:04:50] Amber: Of course. So, Cynthia, I grew up way out in the country like eight miles away from the itty bitty town that I went to school in.

So I spent a lot of time outside as a child, a lot of time running around with sticks and climbing trees, imagining play of all sorts and loved it, thrived out there. In junior high school, I actually took a, well, I took a route O. Into more formal outside stuff. I was doing a lot of sports. And I ended up with a back injury and that led me to receive therapy, physical therapy a back brace and a whole gamut of life changes.

It really started then. I had loved playing sports outside. I was in tennis and I ran track and played basketball inside during the winter. So I was go, but my body wasn’t. And after receiving physical therapy around that time in school, we were given those questionnaires that, you know, help guide you into the career choice that Yes will fit your personality or whatnot.

and I. I remember fitting into the helper category, right. Like a helping profession of some sort. And I was like, Yep, of course. That’s what, that makes sense. I agree. And I was like, physical therapy sounds really interesting and this super much helps me get back to at least a baseline of, doing in moving in my body the way it used to move and act, the way I got hurt before the way I got hurt.

as I researched that, I came across the beautiful, unique healthcare profession of occupational therapy, fell in love immediately. The occupational therapy profession on itself was founded on like sewing in like projects and crafts and like working with your hands.

And it has evolved over time to be really honed in on each person, specifically in what is most important to them in their day to day activities, helping them find independence and helping them thrive and go through life in the way that they want to. Without barriers. So that might be looking at helping that person strengthen or become more coordinated.

It might be Changing the task or changing the environment so that the environment is more friendly and universally designed, or that the task isn’t so complicated. You know, there are often multiple ways to do one thing. So my brain gets to think about all of those things together, whether that’s for an individual or a group.

But I’ll get to the group stuff later, but yeah. 

[00:07:40] Cynthia: So it sounds like just that childhood of being in the fast open spaces, out in nature really made you love that aspect of being alive. And then you eventually made your way to occupational therapy just through all the different things that life threw at you.

Moving through physical therapy, seeing that as an option, but because occupational therapy was. unique in that you can look at it from different angles, and it’s not just always about physical movement. There’s more involved. It just really peaked your interest. So just for people who don’t exactly know what occupational therapy is, can you give a brief description or overview of what that looks like?

Maybe in that clinical setting or at least how you do it. 

[00:08:28] Amber: Of course.

I’m kind of like a baby doula. Like I know all things baby development, right? Like, you have your labor delivery doula that knows all things labor delivery. You’ve got your postpartum doula that knows like all things like healing and postpartum, I’m the baby doula. Like I know the baby development and those roles and routine shifts for the mama too and the family dynamic as well. 

in really basic terms, occupational therapists can work with anyone from birth or prenatal, even to death. Or right to that end of life. In the clinic space, in pediatric occupational therapy where I went straight after receiving my master’s in OT from the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse, shout out . I was in a clinic, a sensory intense clinic where I worked with kiddos, with and without disabilities. But they were struggling with their day to day tasks.

They were having challenges moving from, you know, one activity to another, or transitioning. We would call that having full meltdowns. You know, really these kids were having true impacts in their day to day functioning. The family functioning wasn’t going as smoothly because of their various needs.

And my job was to help figure out why what was the communication? What was the end, you know, solution to that kiddos issue there. Why did they not transition well? Well, we look at their body and how they were experiencing input For themselves and from the environment. We look at the task, how it was presented, how quickly all the things, right?

We break it down. We work multiple times a week in a clinic space where there’s swings and mats to crash on steps, stools to, set up obstacle courses you can think of, like collapsible tunnels and swings from the gym spaces and stuff. So much fun. Oh my gosh, . I definitely love working in that space. But it was inside lots of plastic, lots of artificial sensory input for those kiddos.

And I was seeing kiddos well into their childhood where likely they’d been told wait and see, wait, and see, wait and see. Next year school might be better or who knows? I don’t know what they were told. Right. Lots of things. as a mom am now being told my own things from pediatricians and all the healthcare people to sort through.

Right. It’s a lot . . Yeah. So no, no blame, no shade to anyone. It is a lot. But as my job as the OT there was to help sort that out and look at that family and that individual kiddo and then come up with a treatment plan after they evaluating them thoroughly to figure out, well some of those pieces of that puzzle were, and as I would get to know them over time, more pieces would fall into place and things would hopefully progress.

so. Does that help? Explain that a little bit, . Yeah. But it’s so hard to put into a short sentence what OTs do, and if any OT listens to this, they will definitely giggle about that. Cuz it’s true. I like, 

[00:11:23] Cynthia: Yep. That and then some cause. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think what I’m really gathering is that it’s such an individualized experience, so you’re out there as this.

Human experience detective, and you’re trying to figure out like, why is this happening? How can we make little shifts in the environment and in their physical processing so that this isn’t a problem anymore? And you know, it’s not just about the child, but you recognize it’s also about the family and about that environment, Right.

That you’re creating for them. And so, you know, I know Mama Earth does occupational therapy with a very specific lens and utilizing nature. And so I, I was just in love with the examples you were giving of what occupational therapy in nature looks like. , do you mind sharing, you know, instead of like the tubes and like the stools inside of a room?

Like what does occupational therapy in nature look like? 

[00:12:22] Amber: Yeah, so, so instead of being in a big gym space with mats all over and an obstacle course set up by a. You know, me, the ot, the adult the leader of the class or whatever. And that’s coming from like a child’s perspective. We meet in nature in a really neutral environment because I’m not controlling nature.

 the difference between walking into an OT session in a gym space and walking into an OT session out in the forest or in a nature play area with me is vast. Out in nature. We have. Natural affordances that are there. While I can predict the environment and that, you know, we’ll be for the most part within these barriers, nature continues to pull us outwards.

It helps us orient to our outer world. It helps us draw our attention out. If we think about standing in, even just our backyard, we’ll hear birds chirping. We’ll hear the rusting of leaves, especially as the seasons change. You notice those cha, those noises more and more. You might hear a plane or a vehicle far off, you know that, which makes you think even further.

Whoa, was that northwest south? You know, we’re programmed to do that. Visually the natural environment provides high contrast. We can search and locate things. Um, Throughout the leaves or the contrast of the leaves, the trees in the sky. I like to pull flower, or not pull, but I like to bring flowers into the sessions too, because they offer such an, just a beautiful, natural, thing to like explore, Right?

So to find them there’s so much that goes into that. Instead of sitting at a table, we’re working on core strength by crawling around and find motor work by picking flowers and beautiful stems and twigs and making up, okay. Out of that logs and rocks are wobbly, right? So that challenges the core in a different way than walking across a pillow or a therapy mat does.

Nature also has its way of calm us. this is becoming more and more evident. I feel like there’s like a wave of us that are realizing it and starting to yell it from the rooftops. Right. But this has been known for a long time, but the research is starting to be there too, to support the why behind go outside.

brings us to a calmer nervous system state. Kids that spend more time in nature are correlated and may have better mental health benefits in their futures. The research is starting to show this. There’s more always to be done, but it’s just cool. It’s so neat.

yeah, OT outside looks different. It’s not just bringing OT outside, it’s doing it different. There’s a different relationship there. There’s a different tempo and pace to it, if that makes sense. And especially with everything I continue to keep learning and unlearning. I truly do think it’s really about that one person and what that human, that little person and their family and their loved ones want a need for their. Most important occupations. . 

[00:15:35] Cynthia: And you know, it’s so interesting too, cuz I’d imagine as a child walking into a clinic, right, walking into this like space where yeah, there’s like a teacher, a leader, and like they’ve already set up the course for you and it just feels very different than like, Hey, let’s go to this forest together.

Like, let’s meet at this nature park. And it just feels like less intimidating. Like, have you noticed that maybe kids open up differently out in nature to you? 

[00:16:07] Amber: Definitely. Definitely. And the beauty of it is being, there’s less of a time constraint, right? We still have our select time that we’re together, but it, there isn’t such.

Whether perceived or real time crunch to it, right? Like a go go get these, all these things done. There’s more following the kiddos lead and letting their intrinsic motivation lead what’s gonna drive them with little nudges to try a little bit trickier of a thing or a little bit of a. A challenging sensory experience that I know might be pushing their edge of their boundary, but I’m there to help them through it.

They, I know, you know that they are safe in that and then I can support them through that, where they’re willing to, they’re like interested in it, in, in some deeper, more connected in way. It’s wild . 

[00:16:58] Cynthia: . Yeah. And I love that you get to take the lead from them, cuz I know what drew you into occupational therapy was the fact that there’s variety and that, you know, you take things at different lenses and perspectives.

So, I mean, what a fun adventure for you too, to be like, oh, where’s, where is this patient gonna take me? And to be able to integrate what you’ve learned as an occupational therapist and infuse it into their interests that are already there organically. 

[00:17:26] Amber: Yeah. And it, it’s definitely a skill. Skilled occupational therapy.

You know, I just have to note that cuz sometimes it looks, what are they doing? They’re just following that kid around or that’s really just, they’re playing, they’re literally just playing, you know, So they’re from an onlooker. Yep. We are literally just playing or literally just doing the dishes. You know, if I was working with an adult or, you know, it could just be from afar.

It can look very natural and that’s the way it should be if it’s being done and at the, that just rates supportive level for that person. . But it takes it takes a skill to do that. It takes watching, it takes noticing, planning ahead, you know? Oh, that. Might wobbling, there might lose balance.

Will I be there to what level of support will I be there with? And that sort of thing. Anticipating different things and adjusting as we go. Staying flexible. Continuously unlearning , right? As an adult we have to keep learning and unlearning. 

[00:18:25] Cynthia: . Exactly. The unlearning never ends, you know, and it’s so fun that you get to work with kids cuz I feel like there’s less unlearning to do there.

And so then they kind of take things with more of that open mind and willingness. Beautiful. Go ahead. Can I add 

[00:18:41] Amber: something about the OT sessions? You know, something that’s similar is we do still work on transitions. We still move in and out of our session or from one area to another, from stacking these wood blocks and these wood sticks to sorting the leaves in different colors or something like that for various reasons or goals.

so transition work dawning and doffing clothing, you know, getting shoes, the right shoe gear on and off. Clothing when, especially during season changes, we are wearing layers or needing, you know, a hat or gloves or I’m chilly at the start, but once my body starts moving, I start to feel warmer, so I need to unzip and take a layer off.

So some of those skills that would also be worked on, you know, in that clinic space. I’m able to still achieve in the outdoor space, which is pretty cool. , 

[00:19:30] Cynthia: and this curiosity just popped in my head cuz I know we’re in Minnesota where we experience like extremes of all seasons . So like even in like the deepest of winters or like hottest of summers, like do you still do things outside or then do you also have like an indoor space or what does that look like in your business?

[00:19:50] Amber: That’s a great question cuz that is such reality. We sure do have the extremes. For the most part we’re outside. And I pause while I say that because Mama Earth is growing and ever changing, but for the most part, except for those extremes yes, I would love to continue meeting everybody outside through it all because It adds that continuous changing element, right, of the weather. The weather is a whole added piece to work through therapeutically. That’s life is weather. We can’t take weather out of life. So, you know, if we avoid getting caught in the rain our whole life, will we always be inside? I don’t know. That would be Such your bummer cuz it’s actually pretty fun to splash in puddles and dance in the rain . Yeah. 

[00:20:35] Cynthia: Oh, I love that. I feel like they’re so aligned with like the Minnesota value system. Cause I mean, I lived in California for six years and when I moved to Minnesota I was like, what? Like everyone’s outside when it’s like zero degrees out or like 20 degrees out.

Yeah. And like I, you know, only went to the beach a few times while I was in LA because I just took it for granted. But here it’s like every season people have found ways to still be connected to nature and that’s something that really stood out to me about like the Minnesota lifestyle. So it’s cool that you get to teach that at a young age.

[00:21:12] Amber: Well, and I always like, I always hope for a slow transition both ways. We’ll always prefer it to warm up faster, but , you know, like, let fall we fall. Let’s like ease into the cool. 40 feels a lot different in the fall than it does in the spring. . Yeah. But with that said, obviously there’s extremes.

I would draw the line at some of those like just not safe situations, but then that could be a conversation We have one on one. If a family isn’t quite sure, like that’s a little cold for me, can we reschedule? That’s a possibility. And there’s always room to bring nature in somehow or another as well.

If in indoor space is somewhere where I move to, if winter ends up being like long and Dre, you know, I don’t know. . 

[00:22:02] Cynthia: Yeah, exactly. But I love that you get that opportunity too, right? That life is not gonna be. Sunny all the time, right? And so how can we still get the work done in all different environments?

And so instead of putting the leaves in color order, maybe it’s making snowballs and making Ds. There are,

[00:22:28] Amber: I’m dancing here. I’m so excited. Yes. That’s exactly it. There are so many ways throughout every single season, Minnesota cold you know, fall, spring, mud flowers, planting seeds. There are seriously so many ways to, to utilize nature every single season. And it’s like, oh, it just gets me so excited because , it’s so fun and it’s so good for us.

It’s so grounding. when we can slow down and watch that through our littles it’s joyful. Mmm. Fill my bucket up. 

[00:23:03] Cynthia: Yes. Yes. And I know, gosh, you know, this was, this is such a cool business concept and I know it took a lot for you to take that leap of faith and say, You know what, this is what I’m doing.

Cuz you were at a clinical space at first, and I know there was just like there’s a journey there. Do you mind sharing a little bit about how you decided to move from the clinical space into this nature based occupational therapy and mom. 

[00:23:32] Amber: Yeah, I would love to. So I was bumping up against about five years in the clinic space and just really feeling the burnout productivity levels constantly felt like they were being pushed.

If there was cancellations, rather than getting time to, you know, dive deeper on something I told a parent, I would dive deeper on for them. I was subbing for a family that I really didn’t know or hadn’t met before, and doing my best I could. It was just this like wheel of go do more while doing less, and it didn’t feel good.

During that time, I also was struggling to. Conceive and stay pregnant. We had three miscarriages before my Little Rainbow Baby River was born. And that brings us to the shift. So I was pregnant in spring of 2020 and I announced to my colleagues the same day we were told to go home and we didn’t know what was gonna happen.

We collectively like everyone, right? We no one. Within that two to three day frame of time, life shifted. So I finished my pregnancy doing OT work via telehealth. So I was video chatting with families in their living room from my living room and I was coaching them through how to. Get the sensory input and motor work done that would work us towards our long term and short term goals that we had.

It was such a challenge, but I learned a ton of things from it. One being that parents really do need to be part of it. They’re the experts on their kids and they’ve gotta be part of it to really make differences. And that’s just a wonderful takeaway for me for that. When I had river in September of 2020, I

came to the realization that I wasn’t going to return to the office. And made that decision and became a full-time stay-at-home mama. Which was something I didn’t ever think I was going to do honestly. In our relationship, it was going to be flopped, if ever the case, but everything shifted at that timeframe.

It’s, feels a tiny bit cliche, but it’s like so true. He really turned our world upside down in like the best way. Plus it was the middle of the pandemic. So at home we were I had really bad postpartum depression and anxiety that spiked in that, those early postpartum days.

And so that was another challenge that eventually brought me to Mama Earth. During that time of feeling. Out of control of my thoughts and not like myself, not liking how I didn’t feel like myself. Getting outside with one of my friends who was able to ground me and help me remember the things I knew about development to help take me back to reality, right in those nos.

But that time out in nature Plus that I swear, helps me get through some of those darkest pieces plus therapy and some medications, right? Like it was all of it for me. Integrative approach, Yes, all of it, right? Anyways, But truly that helps me get to a point where I could look back and be like, Okay, that was hard.

Holy smokes. Also, I have tools that I can share and I have goosebumps feeling this because I do, I have tools I can share with these mamas and these parents and with the education and the right angle of an eye to like understand their baby’s development and their, from the way that I can understand and see that development and that processing and the why behind their questions and their wondering, it can change parenthood to just be like, so almost like rose colored.

But I, it’s not that it’s just like raw and real, right? Like it is, it’s rose colored, but it’s beautiful cuz it’s naturally happening with the right tools. . Yeah, I get rambling there because I get so excited about it. 

[00:27:36] Cynthia: Yeah, and you’re just beaming right now cause and how beautiful that, you know, it was through your own healing journey in nature, in community, that you recognized your own power.

And not only the tools that you have, but the education that you have, the experience that you have, the skills that you have, that it would be a shame to keep that from the world. And so here you are with your own practice now doing exactly what you know the world needs. And you know, you mentioned that getting the parents involved is super important.

And I know you really explained co-regulation to me, I feel like I’ve seen that word thrown around on Instagram. I like kind of got it but didn’t really understand and I was one of those things where I’m like, everyone must understand it. So I just like didn’t feel like asking. But I asked you because I feel comfortable with you.

Oh. So I was like, What do you mean by co-regulation? Do you mind sharing what that 

[00:28:37] Amber: is? Yes. Yes. So co-regulation is when we’re with another human and we’re reading them and shifting how we’re feeling because of how they’re feeling and they’re shifting how they feel because of how we respond to that, right?

Like it’s that mirroring and that that support. And typically it’s with a close loved one, a trusted one that you can co-regulate with. So adults we’re able to self-regulate. We can understand that we’re feeling a little anxious and take that deep breath. Have our sip of tea, take our shower, do our walk.

You know, we all have our things. Maybe we need to weight lift or do some yoga to get weight bearing.

While our bodies are driven to do weightlifting or yoga, whether that’s at the start of our day or at the end of the day, that’s because our sensory system has that need to get it filled with proprioceptive input, which is very grounding and calming. But why? The why, right? Why do we crave that at the end of a busy day?

Or why do we know that we need to do that activity in the beginning of the day, otherwise we come home a mess? Well, because we all have differences in how we process sensory information. And one of my ways of empowering parents and caregivers and adults in the situation of the parenting journey is helping them understand their own triggers and their own sensory processing differences and needs.

So for example, I was talking to a mama about visual. I was talking about my own sensory needs and those being, I am very auditorily sensitive and tactally sensitive. And the auditory thing for me is I know if I have had a lot of. Noise throughout the day. I don’t want the music on while we cook dinner.

It will start making me kind of crabby, , . And so this mama I was talking to was like, we kind of going through different senses and how we feel about, you know, are we a hype? Do we over respond or under respond to different senses? And we came across visual input and how sometimes we can be easily over stimulated visually and that can set us into this fight or flight sense of like just on edge, icky feeling.

. And she just had this light bulb like go off where she. And I think Cynthia, you had the same kind of light bulb when we talked about this previously too, which she was just like, It makes sense why I hate clutter on the counters. I was like, Yes, your system doesn’t like it. It’s not just cuz like clutter bothers you cuz it doesn’t bother everyone.

[00:31:22] Cynthia: Yeah. Yeah. That was like, I felt so seen when you said that. It’s like I’m just very sensitive visually and when I get too much visual input all at once, then yeah I go into that fight or flight mode, I start to get agitated. I’m easily upset. Or I might be snappy with my partner cuz usually, you know, he makes some of the mess.

Yeah, right. 

[00:31:46] Amber: And now that you know that you can take a moment, right, You can like some awareness like, Ah, Cynthia. Yep. You are overwhelmed by that. Like what would help. Should we move our work situation to another area and just deal with that later? Or does that need to get cleared right now? Or maybe I need to ask for help or, you know, there’s so many solutions.

But it comes from knowing ourselves and then listening to ourselves. And being honest. I know I show up better when I am honest with my sensory needs. Right. When I don’t play music all day, even though it’s fun. And that’s what stay at home moms do, Right? Is just play kids’ music all day.

Well, we don’t here cuz that would drive me up the wall so we don’t my sensory system needs a quieter house during the day. So I, so we do that. I also crave. That proprioceptive input. So one way to counteract the fight or flight is to do things that we crave. And I enjoy getting that through yoga or, hey, lifting up my little and walking around and stuff, But yeah it’s really empowering when you can start knowing and noticing what you in your body needs, and then having the tools, whether that’s self-driven or helped out by an ot bringing that to the forefront and then using those tools in your day to day life to. 

[00:33:15] Cynthia: Yeah. Yeah. The word empowering really comes to mind cuz you’re not only helping your clients understand their own needs and kind of looking inward to their own honest truth about what their needs are, but then how to fill that need and providing those tools as well. Yeah. So that’s how

You self-regulate. Self regulate, and then now the co-regulation. What, where’s the magic that happens there? , 

[00:33:43] Amber: So when we as adults can self-regulate, we, we can maintain that calm. Now what is co-regulating, especially with our littles, it’s supporting their feelings and their energies in their moment, in that moment with them. So we co-regulate By noticing, by looking, by observing our little ones distress, whether that’s I stub my toe and I’m actually in physical harm.

My feelings were hurt and I’m in emotional distress. Or I just, I’m feelings sad, you know, whatever it is. We notice and we swoop in as the adult and we give the support, whether that’s a snugly hug and some deep pressure to calm the system, whether that’s, you know, verbal reassurance and I love you.

Are you okay? That must have really hurt. You know, validating that But calming yourself in that to help that little one. Calm is the cycle, right? If my son falls and scrapes his knee, if I start screaming and crying and getting really upset because, My son just scraped his knee and how could I, you know, I could spiral, right?

Like , and I’m not calm in that. He’s gonna look at me and not be calm. He’s gonna probably cry harder. He’s gonna clinging to me. You know, he’s gonna start seeking for more support of regulation and that co-regulation. So instead I pause, I wait, I observe, calm myself before approaching, right. Make sure that I’m at least semis, slowered heartbeat after I jumped at him falling or whatever, and I check in, I assess, you know, does he bleeding?

Is he not? And then move from there. Give a big hug. I wrap him up, I check in, I note, let him tell me where he’s hurt. See how it’s that back and forth that, that. Almost like a relationship, a dance to it in a way. Does that make sense? Yeah. 

[00:35:46] Cynthia: Cuz you’re checking to see how he is, he’s checking to see how you are.

And that influences then your own experience. But as the adult, you have the unique opportunity to set the standard. 

[00:35:57] Amber: Right. And littles need us. They need, it’s a need. It’s not like a want, it’s not a manipulation. It’s a need they need us to co-regulate up to, you know, into their childhood. And in teen years even.

And we need that as adults. So it’s never something I think should be like, oh, you can self regulate now. If somebody’s asking for co-regulation in whatever way it’s being asked for, I think that should be respected and given, the beauty of. Circling back to the OT piece of it, the beauty of it is that my lens can piece that apart and help a parent understand what will support that child’s co-regulation.

So maybe that kiddo doesn’t want to be touched because they’re very sensitive tactally and the parent thinks, Well, I feel better when I get a hug. I’m gonna hug my kid, and the kid just loses it more. So knowing that piece of the puzzle, right, or that piece of that unique neurodiverse person I can bring awareness to that and we can find another solution sitting next to them, you know, in, in a safe distance where they’re, they know they’re not gonna be touched, but you’re there with them and you’re doing super wonderful deep breaths to model how to calm your nervous system, right?

 Without. Without that piece that will trigger them further. . 

[00:37:22] Cynthia: Yeah. I love it. And I love that through your experience, you’ve really emphasized the co-regulation as a part of your offerings, right? That it’s not just about the child, it’s also the parents have to learn how to regulate so that they can be that anchor of calm for their own child.

And so you offer these tools, these services, and so now that people understand a little more what you do and how you do it, what are the ways that people can work with you? 

[00:37:51] Amber: Yeah. There’s a variety of ways starting with the direct OT services, that includes an evaluation and a plan of treatment with goals, long-term goals and short-term goals directly for that person.

I also provide one on one coaching, which. Is a step down and different from that direct OT intervention. It’s more of how do I explain it? An opportunity for guidance and tips and tricks than it is a direct treatment plan. Of like, these are the pro, these are our areas of concern and problem areas. These are our steps of action for these goals that we wanna achieve. , the one-on-one coaching is more along the lines of, I have these toys, or I, you know, we got these things and have all this baby equipment cuz every every single email I got said to buy these 20 things if I want to have a developing baby.

So I did, what do I do? And I can say, well here we need to, you know, clear this face and do all these things. Head outside more often, . And I laugh a little, but I’m honestly serious about that. Less is more in the developmental journey. So I can help guide you through that. I can help you learn how to set up the toys in your environment so that baby can learn how to pull up on the couch so that they can learn how to later walk if they’re having trouble with that specific thing.

X, Y, z I also provide enrichment programs, and these are all inclusive. They are for kiddos with disabilities or extra needs. But also everybody, anyone you know that loves nature and loves play can come along. So sometimes early in life we don’t have. Our red flags all there, or any diagnoses. So we just show up as little babies and those enrichment programs are more focused on mamas and datas and that parent caregiver education piece of like understand yourself, understand how humans work and how we are calm and how nature impacts us.

Understanding ourselves in those situations and those enrichment programs, helping the parents understand themselves, I should say with the babies there hand in hand. It’s non separating diets. Groups. We get to learn fun, fun ways to play those nature games that support co-regulation and self-regulation support.

All the developmental milestones and many milestones along the way. I have games and activities set up during those specific groups that target those different areas of development for the babies or the children in each age range for those groups. And then I also have lastly, a little bit longer offering of an eight week program that’s really intended for those mamas and babies in the fourth trimester as a tummy time support circle.

So that’s focused on, like I said, the mamas and babies, but learning tummy time stuff, sorting through the junk and garbage we’re getting thrown at us from con the consumerism world we’re in. Having community and support out in nature and learning and growing together in so many more things. We have a topic we go through weekly for that program, but that’s my, like heart and soul all those offerings.

I, I truly have been having so much fun with it. It’s just a of last, so it’s great. 

[00:41:17] Cynthia: That’s wonderful. And I love that that fourth trimester group that you offer, cuz I’m sure it’s something that you really would’ve benefited from too during your fourth trimester. So now knowing that you can now hold the space for the healing for the connection for the learning that you so craved at the time. And I think that’s just so beautiful that you can now offer that. So, 

[00:41:40] Amber: Oh, thank you. I truly hope so. I. Put a lot of time and thought into that program specifically to, that was the start of Mama Earth actually. It was that, And it’s grown to other enrichment programs and in truly taking the OT piece with the direct OT services outside.

But it is it’s special personal and like heart wrenching, right? Like it’s like the good stuff. It truly drives me and that’s what drove me out of the clinical space, is to do something that brings me joy and passion and excitement and fills my bucket up. And this is doing it helping mamas and caregivers feel confident outside.

I don’t know what more I could ask for and how empowering to be able to reach more, you know? Yeah. That’s what I could ask for is that more families could just, Know this stuff and thrive 

[00:42:31] Cynthia: that. They can know that they just need to step out in their backyard or go for a walk to be able to access all these tools for self-regulation, co-regulation.

And yeah, I was gonna say, it’s just so empowering to know that you don’t have to go into a clinic necessarily. Like if you can learn how to do this in nature, then you’ve got these tools for life, right? 

[00:42:53] Amber: And what beauty to bring it into your children’s lives this early on, right? To open up that vulnerability of wanting to learn and being open to learning.

So signing up for a class, you know, and then heading out there with your kiddos in toe. I know it’s not easy to get out the door. I’m a mom, I get it. But truly impactful stuff that you’ll walk away with. And it is possible to do that outside like you said, out your back door.

Round yourself, put your shoes on. Do some rainbow orienting. Look around and try to find one thing of each color even. Ooh. Yeah. It’s a fun game. And I call it rainbow orienting. It’s, it actually can calm your nervous system because it pulls your attention outward, right? And makes you look around activating some reflexes and nervous like your vagus nerve get, gets activated and.

I’m not gonna go into that deep detail . 

[00:43:49] Cynthia: You’re like, I’m gonna stop my . I love it all. You’re like ready to nerd out . 

[00:43:56] Amber: That will help calm your system. Because if we think about it, if we look around our environment, we playing this rainbow orienting game, our nervous system is benefiting because we are looking around for safety, right?

Or signs of not being safe. So primi, we’re looking for the lions, the tigers, right out in our field. But while we’re not out in fields with lions and tigers anymore, our body still likes to react like we are sometimes, right? And so that’s a fun game to try in your backyard or out on your walk. Next time you step out front to go, Oh yeah, rainbow.

Go through the rainbow, Find one little thing each, or a leaf, each color or flower, each color, et cetera. . And then. Check in, see how you feel after. 

[00:44:44] Cynthia: Yeah. Beautiful. I will definitely do that on my next walk, . Well it sounds, you know, we’ve covered a lot of different aspects of what you do. Yeah. You know, your journey, which is just so beautiful.

I’m wondering, what do you hope that listeners can walk away from this conversation with? Like, what nugget of information knowing a practice, you know, what do you hope people can take away? 

[00:45:12] Amber: I just really want listeners to feel confident in stepping out and confident just in, not in just the act, but the knowing of like what benefit it will have for them.

Themselves and their mental health and then their children and how that ripple will just keep going. Like I said it’s as simple as getting out to the backyard and slowing down. Noticing, you know, do I hear a bird or a cricket or this or that? Start going through your different senses.

What’s something I notice can see, hear, smell, feel, et cetera. Touch how does my belly feel inside? So gaining that confidence, taking that outside and knowing that it’s backed by research. There continues to be research articles that just keep coming out, that say, go outside, go play free, play uninhibited it.

Wander around and be joyful, . And it sounds so funny. And so, so it’s so like, alright. That’s all it is. Right? And it is, It’s, we can achieve it, right? We can bring joy into our lives by heading out to nature because it will support our nervous system to be in that calm state of readiness to learn and to feel grounded and good.

[00:46:27] Cynthia: So important. Thank you so much, Amber, for your time, for your energy, for all that you do. It is such a gift, what you offer people, and I’m just grateful that we can have you on the podcast and share your message and your wisdom with whoever’s out there listening. Thank 

[00:46:45] Amber: you. Thank you so much. 


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