The American Occupational Therapy Association defines Occupational Therapy as “the skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives. Occupational therapy assists people in developing ‘the skills for the job of living’ necessary for independent and satisfying lives.” Services typically include:
Customized treatment programs to improve one’s ability to perform daily activities
Comprehensive home and school evaluations with adaptation recommendations
Performance and skill assessments and treatments
Adaptive equipment recommendations and usage training
Guidance to family members and caregivers
What is Sensory Integration and how is it used by an occupational therapist?
Sensory Integration is the body’s ability to organize and effectively utilize the neurological information we obtain from our senses. It is a complex mechanism that affects every aspect of a person’s life. It includes several neurological systems such as the visual system, auditory system, kinesthetic system and the vestibular system. Occupational therapists use sensory integration as a frame of reference in order to assist children with varying areas of dysfunction or difficulty. The utilization of a sensory integration framework postulates that if you treat the underlying neurological deficits, a child is more apt to develop age appropriate skills in a typical manner. The focus of some children’s sensory integration treatment may include: improving their awareness of where they are in space, decreasing excessive bouts of spinning or running, decreasing excessive bouts of crashing into furniture or people, improving their awareness of how to plan and execute motor activities, improving academic skills such as handwriting and scissors skills and decreasing sensitivity to touch or clothing.
A sensory diet is a series of sensory activities used to help children focus and perform optimally during their day. It is always helpful to consult a trained occupational therapist when implementing a sensory diet. The following are some suggestions to aid in the formulation of an appropriate sensory diet.
Tug of war. Place pillows behind and in front of child and allow her to crash into these during the activity.
Crab walking with a puzzle. Begin in a sitting position. Place your child’s hands behind him and lift his bottom off the floor. Place a puzzle board on one side of the room and the pieces on the other. Have him complete the puzzle carrying one piece at a time.
Hippity-hop with a puzzle.
Leap frog or jumping over small objects during obstacle courses.
Rolling from one spot in the room to another (good vestibular input). Be sure to roll to both directions.
Jumping on a mini-trampoline (or the bed) and crashing into pillows.
Playing peanut butter and jelly with pillows. Pretend the child is the bread and use the pillow to spread pretend peanut butter (squeezing them with the pillows.)
Shaving cream, finger paint or pudding play. This is a good tactile game.
If your child has a mini-shopping cart or wagon, weigh it down (e.g., with a small bag of rice). This will give him/her some resistive work. A tricycle or bike up a small incline is also good heavy work.
Use a brushing protocol following some of these activities to help slow him or her down.
Overall massage with scented lotion may help in slowing him down and giving him some increased body awareness.
The ability to hold a pencil properly is essential to proper handwriting. However, it is not that only skill necessary. Visual-perceptual and motor planning skills are also required in order to develop these skills. This is why it is essential to consult a trained occupational therapist to assist in analyzing why your child is having handwriting difficulties. Here are some activities that may help to facilitate a child’s handwriting:
Forming letters with play-dough.
Place a thin layer of salt in a dark baking pan and form the letter with your finger. Have your child imitate. Remember to verbally recreate the letter. (e.g., up, down and across). The tactile input helps to reinforce the proper formation sequence.
Place shaving cream on a mirror. Have your child form letters in the shaving cream.
Use raised line paper to help your child understand the boundaries of the paper.
There are several pencil grips and tools used to assist in proper pencil grasp. Consult an occupational therapist to help decide which pencil grip is appropriate for your child.
Use an inclined surface for writing in order to facilitate wrist extension. A large binder with clothespins to hold the paper in place can work.
Host: Anthony Quijano, OTR/L and Rebecca Laber-Quijano, OTR/L Agency: Optimal Kids Occupational Therapy Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 917-363-9168