Occupational therapist talks backpack safety with back to school shopping right around the corner

WTAJ Plus

WINDBER, SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ Plus) — School is a little more than a month away which means back to school shopping is right around the corner. Experts encourage parents to be mindful when shopping for backpacks.

Occupational Therapist at the Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber, Lisa Valko, says wearing the proper backpack has a huge impact on a child down the road in life.

“So if they don’t have the proper fit of the backpack and they’re not carrying it correctly, they can skew their spine if they’re carrying it on one side all the time and it’s heavy.”

She says this goes for everyone, not just children.

“You’re going to have it from the shoulder blades down to the middle of the back. They usually have clips here, especially college kids when they’re walking across campus they need to have them clipped so it’s going to stay nice and tight. Often you’ll see kids that are hanging like this with their backpack.”

Valko says the backpack should extend two inches below the shoulder blades to the waist or slightly above the waist.

Another big thing parents need to look at is making sure the backpack’s weight is not more than 10% of the child’s total weight.

She says kids can even help by simplifying their load.

“A lot of books right now they can get digitally so they’re still going to rent the book or buy the book but they can do that digitally,” said Valko. “You might put one binder and put all your notes in that one binder for the day, tear them out and put them in binders separately at home.”

She adds that communications is also helpful.

“Hey teacher do I need to carry this with me, do I need to have this with me all the time? Can I leave it at home and are there days that we’re going to use it?”

At the end of the day, Valko says it’s up to the parents.

“You know kids are pretty resilient so they don’t think about it. That’s when the parents come into play and say hey we need to lighten that up and what can we do?”

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