Occupational therapy is a profession that constantly flies under the radar. Therefore, its benefits are largely understated. Most people don’t fully understand the scope of occupational therapy until they themselves or someone close to them works with a therapist. Occupational therapy can make such a huge impact on an individual’s life, it is important to understand it well.
Occupational therapists (OT’s) work with individuals who have been impacted by a medical condition or accident in order to help them achieve independence with their activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs are the every day occupations that a person engages in on the daily. OT’s can work in different settings such as schools, hospitals, home health, and skilled nursing facilities. OT’s can work with individuals from birth to old age but, for the purpose of this post lets focus on how OT’s can help your child.
OT’s work with children to provide skilled interventions that target skill areas that affect a child’s development. Skill areas such as: fine motor, gross motor, cognition, sensory processing, balance, and coordination. Children struggling with reaching developmental milestones can work with an OT in order to identify and target the skill areas that are affecting their developmental growth. In conclusion, OT’s work with children in order to strengthen the factors that lead to proper development. Below is a brief description often targeted by OT’s during intervention.
Fine motor skills are the ability to coordinate the smalls muscles that control the hands and fingers, also known as manual dexterity. Fine motor skills are needed every day to perform self-care tasks and manipulate objects. A child with decreased fine motor skills will demonstrate difficulties with tasks such as opening/closing clothing fasteners, using scissors, handling utensils for eating, and even handwriting. Factors that affect fine motor skills in children often include limited range of motion, muscle weakness, and decreased coordination. For school age children poor fine motor skills can also affect their self-esteem as they can struggle with classroom related tasks.
Gross motor skills are the ability to use the large muscles of the body to perform tasks such as running, walking, and jumping. These core muscles provide you the ability to complete tasks such as sitting upright, catching and kicking a ball, and dancing. Children with poor gross motor skills can struggle to reach developmental milestones leading them to demonstrate effects in other areas such as poor balance, lack of coordination, increased clumsiness or fatigue, and generalized weakness.
Sensory processing is the ability to efficiently integrate the information provided to you by your environment. Children with sensory processing difficulties can often over-react, or under-react to the sensory stimuli around them. Sensory areas include oral, olfactory, visual, tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive. Difficulties with sensory processing can lead to a child’s ability to function in different environments such as the mall (very noisy), classroom (many distractions), or the beach (different tactile inputs). Sensory processing can also lead to issues with feeding and every day tasks such as bathing, and the ability to tolerate different clothing textures.
OT’s can also work with children to develop social skills and appropriate behavior. For example: tolerating loosing, improving attention, and sharing.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING YOUR FIRST VISIT
When meeting with an OT for the first time be prepared to answer questions about your child’s behavior, habits, routines, and pertaining medical history. This will help the therapist gain an understanding of your concerns and what areas the child might be having difficulty with. From here, therapists will often perform a screening which is an informal observation of your child in order to determine if they will benefit from a formal in-depth evaluation. In some cases, this step may be skipped and a formal evaluation will be completed as the first choice. Once the evaluation is performed, scored, and skill areas requiring intervention are identified. Your therapist will provide you with a plan of care detailing what therapy will focus on. An occupational therapy plan of care should include areas of deficits, therapeutic goals, frequency and duration of therapy sessions. An occupational therapist uses play during their sessions in order to help the child achieve their therapeutic goals.
I received the Harkla weighted lap pad for free in exchange for a review.
Ever felt calm after a big hug with a loved one? That is because research has shown that applying gentle deep pressure to the body can result in a calming effect. It can help a person calm their body in order to sleep better or increase their focus/attention for participation in functional activities. Deep Pressure Therapy has demonstrated benefits for individuals suffering from disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and ADHD. With such benefits it is no wonder we have seen the rise in popularity of the weighted blanket. As of late, weighted blankets have been featured in gift catalogs, shopping guides, and in celebrity social media accounts. Even pet stores have begun carrying weighted items. There are many brands out there but, the Harkla family of products really stands out for their quality and affordability.
I received the 5 pound weighted lap pad in the mail and was instantly impressed with the quality and functionality of the product. The weighted lap pad is perfect for children living with Autism or diagnosed with sensory processing disorders. As it can help regulate their bodies in order to increase attention, improve sleep, and reduced self-stimulatory behaviors. The lap pad is machine washable, and can be easily transported making it perfect to use in the classroom.
Harkla is dedicated to making great products that will become a resource for families raising children living with special needs. 1% of every sale at Harkla goes to the University of Washington Autism Clinic to help fund research and therapy for local children. Head on over to their site right now to check out all of their amazing products and receive a digital copy of their guide “The 10 Best Ways To Improve Your Child’s Autistic Symptoms” with your purchase.
Correcting a student’s grasp on a writing utensil can be a tricky endeavor. Each child is different and presents with different needs. Pencil grips are a handy tool often used by occupational therapists to help with this issue. Pencil grips can be used as a training tool or as an adaptation. Out on the market there is currently a large variety of grips that can be purchased. As many OTs do, I have a few favorites that I love to use with my students. Though, I am always on the hunt for new and improved models.
Today I would like to share with you the WriteRight pencil grip. I first saw this grip at AOTA earlier this year and was eager to test it out with my students. I was sent all three sizes by the company in order to review them, and I must say that I would definitely recommend this product.
My students have found it fun to use and really enjoy its cool shape. This grip does a great job promoting a tripod grasp while still providing comfort (each finger has a place). The material is durable, comfortable, and easy to clean. I also love that the pencil that comes with the grip is mechanical making it easy to work on different skills with my students such as graded pressure. The grip can also be transferred to another regular full-sized pencil if that is something you would prefer. To read more about the WriterRight pencil grip make sure to click the following link ------- thewriteright.com
Sensory Processing Disorder is a complex topic and can be quite confusing when you are first exposed to it. In my every day practice I often recommend this book to parents. It helps them expand their knowledge and understanding of the terms I use during their child's therapy sessions. This book does a good job explaining the different types of sensory processing issues and gives lots of examples of activities that you can incorporate in the child's life. I highly recommend this book as an easy resource to refer to.
If you have read this book, please comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Why did the school-based occupational therapist discharge my child, when it is clear that he/she will still benefit from occupational therapy services ?
This is a question I get often from parents who do not understand the reasoning behind this decision. It is normal for parents to feel frustrated, and disappointed in this type of situation. Most of these feelings can be avoided through proper communication between the individuals involved in the child’s care and education. There is a definite difference between school-based OT and private OT services, but most parents/caregiver(s) are unaware of this difference. Below I have provided a brief summary explaining the two services, in hopes of helping families gain insight of the process.
Serves as a supplemental service which focuses on assisting the child in accessing all parts of the school environment. This is done through direct intervention, provision of adaptive equipment/technology, and collaboration with school personnel. It strictly follows the child's
individualized Education Plan (IEP), and the goals that the teacher has created. OTs working in the schools collaborate with school personnel in order to support those goals. Once the child has met the goals on the IEP or is able to assess the school environment (cafeteria, playground, classroom, etc) they are discharged from occupational therapy services. However, this does not mean that the child can no longer benefit from OT intervention. This is when private occupational therapy services are beneficial.
Focuses on developing the child’s developmental skills in order to improve their quality of life and successful engagement in activities of daily living. OTs in private settings can collaborate with the family, teacher, and other professionals involved in the child’s care. Private OT has the freedom to work on activities that are not restricted by the school environment and the IEP. They can offer a more tailored intervention that targets underlying factors affecting the child's performance. Some skills OTs can work on include visual-motor, visual-perceptual, sensory integration, self-regulation, balance and coordination, fine motor, gross motor, and behavioral issues.
Still have questions? Feel free to leave a comment with your questions, or send me an e-mail.
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