Newswise — "Back to school" means backpacks and other burdens come back into the lives of children and families.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has solutions for staying healthy and succeeding in school and will be showcasing them in special events around the country on National School Backpack Awareness Day, September 21. AOTA urges students to keep their lives and backpacks balanced in order to achieve everything they want to do.

This year marks the fourth anniversary of National School Backpack Awareness Day and will be the biggest celebration yet. At least 500 occupational therapy practitioners will be holding events in every state in the US, speaking to an audience of more than 25,000 children, parents and school staff.

At Backpack Awareness Day events occupational therapy practitioners "weigh in" students and their backpacks to make sure children are not carrying more than 15% of their weight on their backs, the limit for back safety. This year's Backpack Awareness Day message is holistic and showcases the full range of services occupational therapy practitioners can provide for all students.

Occupational therapy experts are available to speak on issues including ergonomics of computer use, proper backpack use, mental health tips, and studying approaches to achieve health and well being in school. Experts include:

Karen Jacobs, former AOTA president, associate professor at Boston University, and expert in ergonomics;

Barbara Chandler, associate professor at James Madison University and expert in using occupational therapy to enhance student achievement;

Jean Polichino, Therapy Services Manager for Harris County, TX public schools and expert in designing special approaches to meet children's learning styles and needs.

Please contact AOTA's Media Relations Department to arrange for interviews.

The following are AOTA's tips to stay healthy and succeed in school:

10 Tips for Health and Success in School " For Kids!

1. Keep your physical environment " your desk, locker, or room " neat so you can find things easily. That way you can spend less time searching and more time studying so you'll do better on tests.

2. Balance your schedule: Leave enough time for homework, sports, breakfast, sleep and friends. This will help you focus throughout the day and make sure you have time for everything you need to do.

3. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Children need more sleep to grow, learn, and be active.

4. Sleep well the night before a test and eat a good breakfast in the morning. You'll need the energy. If you study hard and still have problems testing, talk to your teacher or school's occupational therapist about ways to improve your testing skills.

5. When it comes to friends, one good one can make all the difference.

6. Don't judge a book by its cover " keep an open mind. You probably have a lot in common with your classmates. Introduce yourself to new people. Get to know them.

7. Deal with bullying. Tell your parents, teacher, principal, or school's occupational therapist if you or a friend is being bullied.

8. Use proper computer posture:"¢ Your head should be level with the monitor, with the top of the screen at eye level."¢ Your forearms should be parallel to the keyboard and held only slightly above it."¢ Your lower back should be supported while sitting in front of a computer. If your chair doesn't allow this, place a small pillow or rolled up towel between your lower back and the chair to provide back support. "¢ Your feet should rest flat on the floor or on a footrest. If you cannot reach the floor stack boxes or telephone books so you can rest your feet comfortably. "¢ Take a two minute stretch break away from the computer every thirty minutes.

9. Practice your handwriting at home for 5-10 minutes a day. Think of fun ways to practice include making a list of things to take on a trip or sending a handwritten note to your grandparents. Use your imagination!

10. Play games and sports that require eye-hand coordination, such as marbles, card games, ping pong, bowling, and baseball. Go outside and stay active!

For more information visit http://www.promoteot.org/AI_BackpackAwareness.html

Members of the media are welcome to attend Backpack Awareness Day events. To find an event in your area check the Backpack Awareness Day website or contact AOTA.

The American Occupational Therapy Association represents more than 35,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapy students. Approximately one-fourth of AOTA members work with children in school systems, homes, hospitals, and other health care and community settings. Occupational therapy practitioners are trained in helping children with a broad range of physical and mental issues that include developmental and psychosocial problems. Practitioners work with children to improve skills that help them succeed in their "occupations" of learning, socialization and play.

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