In occupational therapy, our licensed therapists are skilled professionals who use research and scientific evidence to ensure that their interventions help your child achieve his or her goals. With strong knowledge of a person’s psychological, physical, emotional, sensory, cognitive, and social makeup, occupational therapists can evaluate how your child’s condition (or risk for one) is affecting his or her participation in life and provide ways to overcome any barriers while using a holistic perspective. Our OT’s work hand-in-hand with your child’s team to develop their sensory-motor skills, visual motor skills, self-help skills (dressing, grooming, and feeding). We strive to build a solid foundation of skills that are applicable to your child’s future development.
At Emerge, we offer state of the art services for clients in the Baton Rouge area in a variety of settings. Our indoor sensory gym gives children the opportunity to learn through play in an interactive, structured environment. Here they improve their fine motor skills and develop a good body scheme in order to engage in typical play activities. We have a cafeteria where our patients can practice eating in social settings and in environments simulating a school cafeteria. Our outdoor playground gives our patients an opportunity to practice motor skills on playground equipment that they would encounter in their backyard, at a park or at school. OT can be combined with our Foundation Program (Group Speech-Language therapy), and our Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Program to provide multiple interventions in tandem, reinforcing the child’s overall therapeutic goals.
How Do I Know If My Child Needs Occupational Therapy?
Daily activities such as eating dinner, changing clothes and running errands are crucial opportunities for observing the status of your child’s development. It is very important to pay attention to the details of your child’s movement, behavior and responses. Simple things like not being able to use a spoon, play with toys appropriately, grasp a writing utensil, have extreme responses to changes or new environments, or even follow basic directions can be symptoms of delayed fine motor skills and poor sensory processing skills. We see children from just a few months old all the way up to elementary school age. No matter what age they are, if your child experiences these kinds of basic obstacles, it is imperative that you seek out a solution involving occupational therapy.
Signs To Look For
There are a number of warning signs that may demonstrate the need for occupational therapy. You might consider occupational therapy if your child has difficulties with the following:
- Difficulty ‘regulating’ themselves. A child may have difficulty calming themselves if upset or being over excited and unable to participate in typical child hood activities or may have frequent tantrums.
- Difficulty with transitions such as changing tasks or environments
- Focusing on one task at a time
- Following simple commands.
- Using basic tools (fork, spoon, toothbrush, paintbrush, hammer and nails, toys, etc.).
- Opening containers (bottle tops, latches, buttons, zippers, etc.).
- Using both hands during activities.
- Maintaining posture and balance.
- Accessing playground equipment like peers
- Sustaining his/her energy level (too tired, not sleeping at night, too much energy).
- Visual perceptual difficulties
These are just some of the surface-level observations that can help to determine if your child needs to seek further medical care. In order to truly evaluate your child’s condition, please request a referral for an OT evaluation from your child’s primary care physician.
Noticing A Pattern
When observing your child’s actions, it’s important to notice if a pattern emerges. The symptoms mentioned above are strong indicators of an issue, but mainly if they occur on a regular basis. Consistency of these symptoms could be an indication that your child is struggling with delayed fine motor skills or has poor sensory processing skills.
If your child is encountering issues with his or her ability to understand and focus on executing basic tasks, or if your child limits his or her experiences or their ability to engage safely in their environment, then you should contact your physician.
If your child is encountering issues with his or her ability to understand and focus on executing basic tasks, or if your child is limited in his or her movements, then you should contact your physician immediately.
Limitations Vs. Behaviors
Motor skills and sensory processing issues are not questions of behavior. They are physical limitations. Specific behaviors and reactions are red flags that can be used to identify your child’s true setbacks. Many times, children try to find ways to cope with their impairments by acting out of the ordinary. It is likely your child isn’t being bad or stubborn; he or she simply may not have the necessary control over their emotional responses or have the correct “adaptive” response to a situation that may seem “typical.” Occupational therapy seeks to help your child develop that control. We simply use behaviors as a way to help determine the scope of the issue.
The Initial Evaluation: A Closer Look At Your Situation
An occupational evaluation can be initiated by a teacher, therapist, doctor, or you the parent. An initial screening form is typically completed by you or whomever referred the child for occupational therapy. A licensed occupational therapist will then spend about an hour with you and your child to assess strengths and weaknesses, and determine initial treatment goals that correspond to the plans that you have for your child’s future.
Another aspect of the OT evaluations is familiarizing you with the importance of our work. What exactly is occupational therapy? How will it help your child? How will it impact your family life? These questions and many more will be answered in order to ease your concerns about the treatment we offer. We want to help you understand how we can help make your child the best they can be.
Clinical Observation: Getting To Know Your Child
Once we get to know you, the next step is observing your child in a variety of settings. In order to truly understand the nature of your child’s difficulties, we’d like to see how he or she reacts and behaves in different environments. For example, how do they act in a group vs. one on one? How does he or she play, and how do they handle switching from one activity to another? Understanding your child’s responses allows us to identify key issues, which then helps to choose the most effective path to take in successfully achieving the goals we establish together.
Standardized Testing: Learning From Your Child
These tests are designed to evaluate the progress of children compared to their peers, specifically with fine motor, visual perceptual and sensory processing development. What can your child do with their hands? Do they use both hands or are they limited to one? Are their able to use one hand to reach across their bodies to pick up something on the opposite side? Can they switch from one side to the other? Can they visually attend to a task?
Formalized Report: Where Do We Go From Here?
Once our occupational therapist has gathered enough information about you and your child, he or she assembles a formalized report documenting the scores, observations and, most importantly, what it all means for you. We then work together with you to outline a set of goals for you and your child. It’s important for us to work hand-in-hand with you in order to ensure that your child’s care reflects your wants and needs.
Two Therapies, One Focus: Your Child
Once your child has been evaluated and/or referred, the next step is to schedule an appointment for an occupational therapy session. We offer therapy in two settings: individual therapy can take place in our sensory gym or within a speech group. These two settings offer different benefits for your child, depending on his or her diagnosis.
Individual Therapy: Working With Your Child One-On-One
During individual therapy, our therapists use components of our indoor sensory gym to work with your child on the specific goals outlined in the assessment process. We make sure your child is engaged in activities that best suit his or her needs. These sessions focus on improving feeding, oral motor skills, bi-lateral coordination, and developing motor planning skills through a variety of activities.
There are a variety of fine motor skills we target during occupational therapy. Your child’s diagnosis determines which skills we address to improve their functionality. Some fine motor skills we may target include:
Tool usage – We help your child learn to use a fork, spoon, toothbrush, paintbrush, writing utensils, and toys. Being able to manipulate objects independently and logically is a major skill that, when learned, will be vital to your child’s everyday life.
Opening and closing containers – We work with your child to open or use bottle tops, latches, buttons and zippers. This is a fundamental function that will significantly improve the day-to-day actions of your child’s life.
Another aspect of occupational therapy is improving your child’s balance reactions. We have a range of activities designed to test and improve muscles in your child’s core and upper body, as well as to coordinate the upper and lower bodies so they all work together. Being able to use all the parts of the body in conjunction to complete a task is vital to the overall improvement of your child’s development.
Group Therapy: Helping Your Child Transition To A “Real Life” Setting
Occupational therapy within our group speech-language therapy involves the same activities, but these are now practiced in a “real life” setting. Your child will be challenged to do all of the things they learned in an individual space but with many other factors involved. With supervision, children practice these new skills independently amongst their peers with the goal of accomplishing them in a more natural setting.
These sessions consist of applying their skills with other children, sounds, multiple toys, multiple voices, etc. This gives your child the opportunity to practice skills that would be typical of a preschool or school setting.
Family Story: Ethan
Many of the children we see experience sensory issues that can make everyday outings very intimidating. Community support has allowed us to expand our OT services by offering haircuts and dental screenings at Emerge! After a few haircuts at Emerge with the help of his therapist, Ethan is getting big boy haircuts in a regular salon and loving it!
“Ethan has sensory issues that make haircuts a major struggle. We tried switching salons and hairdressers, but nothing worked. Each time was a physical and emotional battle for everyone. His haircut at Emerge was the first time he sat through one without crying, and he even smiled! Truly hard to believe, and I would call it a small miracle. Now, you would be so proud of Ethan! I cannot believe this is the same boy who fought us for years during his haircuts, even just a few months ago. He even told the hairdresser ‘Thank you for my haircut’ at the end. Thank you for helping him conquer one of his greatest fears! Just amazing!” – Ethan’s mom