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Happy Occupational Therapy Month!

As OT month starts I wanted to start by sharing with you all, what Occupational Therapy (OT) is so you can begin to understand why it was so important to us to include OT in our model of care at Sensational Minds: Early Learning Academy LLC.

The American Occupational Therapy Association defines OT as

"The practice of occupational therapy means the therapeutic use of everyday life occupations with persons, groups, or populations (clients) to support occupational performance and participation. Occupational therapy practice includes clinical reasoning and professional judgment to evaluate, analyze, and diagnose occupational challenges (e.g., issues with client factors, performance patterns, and performance skills) and provide occupation-based interventions to address them. Occupational therapy services include habilitation, rehabilitation, and the promotion of physical and mental health and wellness for clients with all levels of ability- related needs. These services are provided for clients who have or are at risk for developing an illness, injury, disease, disorder, condition, impairment, disability, activity limitation, or participation restriction. Through the provision of skilled services and engagement in everyday activities, occupational therapy promotes physical and mental health and well-being by supporting occupational performance in people with, or at risk of experiencing, a range of developmental, physical, and mental health disorders."

Occupational Therapy can apply to any age and any setting therefore it can be really hard to define and understand depending on your own experience with OT. You could see an OT if you just had carpal tunnel surgery and needed to rehabilitate your wrist and hand. You could see an OT in a hospital to help them rehabilitate after a major surgery or hospitalization, as well as in someone's home. You can see OT's in prisons helping someone gain life skills they will need in order to be successful when they get out. We can also play a large role in mental health settings, schools, life coaching-are you getting the picture? OT's can specialize in just about anything and everything!

At Sensational Minds: Early Learning Academy LLC there are two important words to remember when thinking about our OT. Pediatric, meaning that we work with children, and Early Intervention.

Early Intervention is an important term to remember because this is not only something we focus on as a practice, but that we strongly believe in. The earlier children receive services, the earlier they can start to benefit from them. This applies for speech and language, for gross motor, fine motor, sensory processing, and so on. With Early Intervention, the idea is that we can identify the children who could be at risk for different types of diagnoses such as developmental delay, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, etc. and start working on skills that are impacting their ability to participate in their day to day life.

With children, this can seem tricky. We're Occupational therapists right? What is a child's occupation? Without writing an entire book on this, simply think about what a child does in their day:

-Get dressed ( which includes self dressing, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, etc)

-Transition to daycare

-Participate in their daily routines at daycare (breakfast, circle time, centers, outside, lunch, rest, etc.)

-Transition home

-Play at home

-Eat dinner


-Getting dressed and ready for bed

-Going to sleep (and staying asleep) for the night

Many children, because of how old they are can have difficulties in their routines, because they're kids! However, when children are having difficulties with many of parts of their day, consistently, it's happening both at school and home or in public places, and it is causing the child and/or the family distress- it could be time to talk about Early Intervention.

This is where OT can come in. What we do is a fancy term called Task Analysis. It is when we can observe a child, as well as listen to parent reports and use our clinical brains and break down a task into every single tiny step a child has to complete in order to be successful with this task. And, when I say EVERY step I mean down to the physical, neurological, nervous system type steps. We may even need to know what they had for breakfast prior to this activity, or how much they slept the night before. We consider every detail that goes into a task so that we can correctly identify which skill areas we may need to work on, or how we can help educate the parents on tips tricks or accommodations we could use to help the child participate more successfully in their daily lives.

Why is it so important for children to be "participating" in their lives you ask? Participating in their lives can look many different ways- but this is our goal:

First and foremost, they are happy. When a child is happy, at peace, and regulated, they are engaged in living their lives. When a child is living, they are exploring, they are curious, they make mistakes, they learn how it feels to fail and try again; they are able to learn.

When children are able to initiate these things on their own, and when their bodies are able to be present with them during these adventures, it is learning too. This is when fine motor and gross motor skills develop, when the body learns how to interpret new sensations and respond to them in an appropriate way, and if a child is not in that happy, regulated state, often times, this isn't happening for them.

This fancy pyramid above is called the Pyramid of Learning and Foundational Skills. This pyramid was created by an Occupational Therapist, Kathleen Taylor, and Special Educator, Maryann Trott. What they outlined is that the foundational skills lie at the bottom until you get to the tip top where actual learning is able to happen. Remember when I talked about that task analysis? This is the little pyramid I often have in my head when I am analyzing a child's ability to complete a task and what could be impacting them. Most of the time in my practice, I am often working on those bottom tiers so that we can have a goal to some day get to the top. Now, it is not all mutually exclusive, they aren't stairs. So, it is not to say a child cannot ever be learning at all until all those bottom levels are achieved, however the goal is to get all those bottom levels in tip top shape so that the child can reach their absolute potential.

Which is where I will end today's blog. We offer OT services at Sensational Minds: Early Learning Academy LLC because we truly believe that no matter a child's gender, race, socioeconomic status and/or abilities, they can reach their full potential. We have the privilege of being with these children in arguably the most formative years of their lives. So, we want to make sure every single child that we can help with the resources that we have, has that opportunity.

Next week we will talk about what the referral, evaluation, and treatment process would look like if your child qualified for OT services. I look forward to continuing to help explain and explore OT with you this month!


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