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WHAT IS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY? Many people are unsure of the exact definition of occupational therapy and are even more uncertain of how they could benefit from it. Simply put, occupational therapy helps people to get back to their jobs (or occupations) of life. Occupational therapists can work with people of all ages, but a pediatric occupational therapist helps children develop the skills that they need to grow into functional, independent adults. This can get confusing to understand because occupational therapy can look different for different people, depending on their phase of life, and the specific challenges they are having.
Here are examples of jobs, or skills, that occupational therapy can help with across the ages:
INFANTS: An infant's job is to eat, move according to developmental milestones such as lifting the head, rolling, sitting, crawling, reaching for objects, acknowledging their parents, etc.
TODDLERS: A toddler's job is to start exploring their world by playing, developing fine motor coordination, gross motor coordination, acknowledging and communicating with others, feeding themselves, potty training, developing imagination, etc.
PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTENERS: This age group starts to develop prewriting and writing skills. They are also able to engage in imaginative play, and they are beginning to be able to play in a group and share with others. They are expected to stay calm when things don't go as planned and focus for a brief period on adult directed activities. They are expected to follow directions, sit still for short periods of time, etc.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL YEARS: A child's job during this time can include developing proficient writing skills for school, staying calm throughout the day, and staying focused and able to listen and follow directions. Reading and reading comprehension skills are expected to develop during this time. Children are expected to get along with their peers, stay in a line and use appropriate behavior at school. Another job of children this age is to be able to use their social knowledge to be able to make and keep friends. They are expected to know how to tie their shoes and manipulate fasteners on their clothing independently.
MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS: A child's job during the middle school years may include being social with their friends and being able to get along with a wide variety of people with different personalities. They are expected to have proficient reading and reading comprehension skills, and handwriting skills. Children are expected to stay calm and focused throughout the school day and follow multiple adult directed tasks. Children may or may not participate in extracurricular activities such as music or sports.
HIGH SCHOOL YEARS: A child's job at this age is to be responsible and independent and to remember to do their homework assignments and study without prompting from adults. Writing skills must be satisfactory. Children are expected to stay calm and able to focus throughout the school day. Social skills are needed to participate in extracurricular activities. Children must be able to get along and work in groups with other students who may have differences of opinions. Children in high school are expected to be able to successfully deal with the stress of school, peer pressure, jobs, etc.
IF YOUR CHILD IS HAVING DIFFICULTY WITH ANY OF THESE JOBS, OR SKILLS, AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST MAY BE ABLE TO HELP.
|Posted on January 14, 2016 at 4:45 PM||comments (0)|
One reflex that is commonly an underlying factor in poor school performance is the Asymetrical Tonic Neck Reflex, or ATNR. This reflex is present when babies look to one side and the arm and leg on the side that he or she is looking extends, while the limbs on the opposite side of the body flex, or bend. This reflex must integrate, or no longer appear, by approximately 5 months of age so that the infant can roll from the back to stomach, and later to be able to crawl successfully. If ATNR is not completely integrated into the body, or if it reappears at later stages in life, it can cause a block in a person's development. Symptoms that can be seen with a retained ATNR include difficulty with the following: establishing a hand dominance, crossing the vertical midline of the body, reading without moving one's head, reading without skipping words, reading comprehension, consistently going to the left side of the page when writing, auditory processing, paying attention, and staying focused. Our therapists are trained to recognize an active ATNR and in turn implement reflex integration exercises to facilitate appropriate neural integration. With the proper integration of this reflex, a child can experience a decline in the noted symptoms, resulting in improved success at school and everyday life.
|Posted on January 10, 2016 at 8:15 AM||comments (0)|
One of the interventions that we use, called Bal-a-Vis-X, uses balls, sand bags, and balance boards to combine balance, auditory, and visual components to facilitate improved attention and focus as well as reading skills. The developers of this intervention had their students read prior to and following a session of exercises. They found that their students were consistently reading faster, and with improved accuracy and fluency following the Bal-a-Vis-X intervention than before intervention.
We did a simililar study with our FOCUS intervention that we introduced in December, 2015. We had our patients read a similar text before and after FOCUS intervention, which consisted of at least 15 minues of Bal-a-Vis-X exercises, and we found that ALL of our patients demonstrated improved reading abilities following the intervention! All but one child read more words with less errors, and the child who did not increase her speed of reading demonstrated improved fluency with reading after the intervention.
|Posted on January 7, 2016 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
Children who struggle with anxiety and nervousness, or those who have frequent meltdowns past the age of 2 may have a hyperactive startle reflex, or fear paralysis reflex. This reflex is hyperactive when a person consistently overreacts (jumps, rapid blinking, fast breathing and heartbeat) to an auditory stimulus such as a tap on a table. By using therapeutic techniques to integrate this reflex, our patients experience a decline in anxiety and become more relaxed, confident, and better equipped to handle the stressors of everyday life.
|Posted on January 5, 2016 at 5:20 PM||comments (0)|
Children who have poorly defined pesonal space and challenges with social skills often have an unintegrated Hands Supporting Reflex. This reflex presents itself when we automatically extend our arms to catch ourselves when we fall or extend our arms in front of our face when a ball or other object is thrown at us. It's primary purpose is for protection and survival- to protect our brain and vital organs from injury. It also has implecations for knowledge of personal space. The length of our arms extended in front of us is the approximate length of our personal space preference. When people who are not family or close friends enter that personal space, our brain automatically alerts us to back up. If hands supporting reflex is not integrated, we are not only more prone to injuries of our upper body and face, we also tend to get "too close" to others, making them uncomfortable and creating challenges with social interactions. The person often doesn't even realize that they are too close, their brain just doesn't alert them like it should. Through reflex integration exercises, a person can learn appropriate boundaries for personal space and in turn have more success with social interactions.
|Posted on January 4, 2016 at 4:25 PM||comments (0)|
What do reflexes have to do with a child's school performance? Children who are having challenges with school performance including an inability to sit still or pay attention, poor reading comprehension, or illegilbe handwriting may have retained, or non integrated primitive reflexes that can be an underlying cause of their challenges. All of our therapists have extensive training in not only identifying the underlying neurological root of a child's challenges, but also with implementing effective treatment strategies to help each child reach their full potential.