April is Occupational Therapy Month, an opportunity for us to honor the therapists who work with our children in the school setting. Not only do therapists assist students with a variety of hands-on tasks, including handwriting, computer typing, using touch screen technology, they also assist our children in completing activities of daily living (ADL) skills such as zipping coats, fastening buttons, and brushing teeth. Their goal is to facilitate everyday living and functioning.
I took some time to interview our Occupational Therapists, Amanda Richardson, Julie Byham, and COTA/L Karen Kyler about the techniques that they use to help our children and adults reach their goals and become independent in daily activities. I wanted to share some of these techniques that they have found to be most successful.
- Sensory Integration Therapy, which focuses on four major components: just-right challenge, adaptive responses, active engagement, and child directive. It works with the child at their pace, and only works when they are actively involved.
- Backward Chaining is a technique whereby a person learns the last step, masters it, and then moves backwards in the sequencing of a task or activity and concludes with the first step. This helps minimize anxiety and increases confidence in the child.
- Incorporating music during a therapy session can provide training in balance, bilateral integration, increase body awareness, and may help minimize tactile defensiveness. You may also see increased verbalizations and attempts to sing to music while swinging, bouncing on a therapy ball, or jumping on a trampoline.
- Maintaining a structure with predictable routines are most effective during a therapy session. One curriculum that has provided great structure for our students is the Teaching Access Ability computer program, a step-by-step approach to introducing students to a touch screen, switch use, and mouse skills.
In summary, OTs look at the child or adult using a holistic, individualized approach, offering techniques for more effective task completion and designing appropriate adaptations when necessary. As one of the ladies commented, “OTs are certainly creative, quick on their feet, with no two days ever the same!”
Ryan has benefited from all of the techniques above, and certainly is a successful young man in part because of his involvement with occupational therapy. Please take a moment and share with me any OT techniques that have benefited your child.