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What
is Occupational Therapy?

 

Occupational
therapy interventions are designed to allow the child build on areas of
strength and helps them to improve skills in areas of their weakness. Occupational
therapy interventions are child-centered and often a session with an
Occupational Therapist looks like a fascinating and elaborate play scheme.

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Occupational
therapy uses a holistic approach in planning programmes. This therapy focuses
on the physical, social, emotional, sensory and cognitive abilities and needs
of the child.

 

In
the case of autism, Occupational Therapy works to develop skills for
handwriting, fine motor skills and daily living skills. However, the most important
part is also to assess and target the child’s sensory processing disorders. It
is important to to remove barriers to learning and help the child become calmer
and more focused.

 

Role
of Occupational Therapist

 

An
Occupational Therapist is to promote, maintain, and develop the skills needed
by students to be functional in the environment that they are in (home/school)
and also in their day to day activities.  Active participation in life
promotes: 

·        
learning 

·        
self-esteem

·        
self-confidence 

·        
independence 

·        
social
interaction. 

 

The Occupational Therapist (OT) helps
children play, develop self-help skills and participate
in their school activities as actively as possible. The occupations or
“jobs” of children can be broken down into three areas: play, self-care, and
learning/school. The Occupational Therapist will first assess the child to
determine his or her developmental level and to determine whether or how the
child’s issues are getting in the way of “learning” the jobs of childhood.

 

 

How
does Occupational Therapy improve quality of life?

Occupational Therapy provides aid to children facing
difficulties in their daily activities like brushing, dressing, toileting,
writing, drawing, etc. The therapy helps develop these self-help skills in them.

For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the Occupational
Therapist can help gain these skills by observing the child’s behaviour and
developing an intervention for them. The OT uses different sets of methods and
plans and there is no such single ideal program as each child is different.
These may include activities to help with interaction, puzzles to develop
coordination and awareness and more.

The
following is a list of some common intervention areas:

·        
 Fine Motor Skills

Development of small
muscles needed for fingers to pick up small items. For example, picking up colourful
beads from bowl using fingers.

·        
Visual
Motor Integration

Hand eye coordination,
such as picking up small pieces of food from the plate and getting it to the
mouth.

·        
 Gross Motor Coordination

Walking, standing,
running, jumping

·        
 Cognition and perception

Thinking and problem
solving. For example, trying to figure out how to get a book off a shelf

·        
 Sensory Processing

Integration of
information coming in from the different senses, such as adjusting your walk
from the boardwalk to the sand and into the water on a summer day at the beach)

·        
 Environmental modifications/adaptive
equipment

Changing the environment
so a child can “do” the “work,” such as sliding a special pencil grip onto the
pencil so it can be held securely for writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Occupational Therapy Activities for Children

There are a variety of activities that can be conducted for children
depending on the condition. The therapy can be conducted in several places like
home, schools, clinic, specialized centre, etc. It is designed differently for
kids of various age group.

For Toddlers and Infants:

The infants usually face trouble sleeping at night. The common exercises
that are included are bath time activities, gentle massages and sand and water
therapy.

Sensory Integration Activities

These Sensory Integration activities helps a child response more
actively and accurately to the environment. The activities are designed in such
a way that it creates a deep pressure on the child. For example, soft corners are
created in the room using soft furnishing like a bean bag which provides a
wonderful deep pressure for a calming effect.

Coordination Activities

These activities are designed for the child’s legs and arms so that they
can coordinate more effectively. These are basically divided into two broad
categories: bilateral and hand-eye coordination skills. For hand-eye
coordination, you can have your child to hit a ball with a bat, catch a ball,
etc.

Bilateral activities provide the ability to use both sides of the body
in an accurate manner. Activities such as rolling out pastry sheets from a play
dough can be effective.

Visual Perception Activities

These activities help the child understand the information send by eyes
to the brain. For form constancy and to help them understand shapes put objects
on a tray and ask your child to recognize them. You may use books to teach them
different fonts and same alphabets of different sizes to enhance their
abilities. You can also use jigsaw puzzle to aid development process.

 

 

Activities for Fine and Gross Motor Skills

Fine motor skills activities are required for children who have trouble
using a hand, fingers, and forearm properly. The basic therapy includes simple
exercises of arms, wrist, fingers, etc., so that they can perform regular work
like holding a pencil with ease.

For gross motor skills, you may help the child with core and shoulder
activities. These activities may include swimming or hopscotch.

 

Research behind Intervention

The NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational
Therapy has conducted a research in the to examine the effectiveness of
occupational therapy interventions for individuals, groups, or society. 

 

Occupational therapists apply their knowledge
to help individuals with disabilities to engage in activities of daily living
as actively as possible and develop
self-help skills. The
research conducted within the Department has been focused on promoting the
quality of occupational therapy and the effectiveness of occupational therapy
interventions.

 

Focus of Research

·        
Is Handwriting interventions effective to
improve the legibility of school aged children?

 

·        
Are Cognitive and Performance based
measures used effective for the prevention and wellness among older adults in
fall prevention?

 

·        
How cognitive interventions to promote
neuroplasticity and improve verbal memory and attention

 

·        
Research on school based interventions for
students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in inclusive classrooms

 

 

·        
Are school based yoga programs on adaptive
behaviour in children and adolescents with disabilities efficient

 

·        
Exploration of strength based practices to
improve outcomes for children, adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum
Disorder

 

 

Reliability
and validity of assessment tools used by occupational therapists

·        
Validity of computerized visual perceptual
motor measures for school aged children

·        
Outcome measure for children’s
occupational repertoire development

 

 

Who
conducted the Research?

·        
Yu-Lun Chen is a PhD
student in the Department of Occupational Therapy at NYU. She has clinical
experience which includes home-based intervention for children and families
with neurological and developmental disorders.

Yu-Lun’s
research focuses on participation of children and adolescents with               disabilities in schools, home
activities and in their communities. Her main objectives are to identify the
determinants of participation outcomes and to improve current services and
interventions.

·        
Ellen Modlin is a Ph.D. student in
the Department of Occupational Therapy at NYU. She has worked in the NYC public
schools, Early Intervention, and the Nassau County school district. She is
currently serving on the school district’s assistive tech committee for the
development of screenings and interventions with technology to support students
in the classroom. Ellen’s focus of interest is using assistive tech to assist
students with visual-perceptual deficits.

 

 

 

Conclusion

Based
on the focus area of the research, the Department’s research agenda is
concerned with finding out the links between occupational therapy education and
practice and the effects of occupational therapy in the real world of practice.

Ultimately,
the research activities of Department faculty and students goal is to improve
the quality of occupational therapy practice and research.

 

Evaluation
of research

Strengths
of research conducted:

·        
Researches that was involved in the
research are experienced (Based on their work experience in the field)

·        
Research does not only focus on young
children but it also focuses on adolescents and adults (not age biased as it
has a wide age range)

·        
Research was conducted in various settings
such as classrooms, homes and communities

·        
It focuses how Occupational Therapist can
serve better to help people with disorders

 

Areas
of improvement:

·        
Duration of the research – It should be
done over a longer period of time

·        
Although it focuses on how to improve
Occupational Therapist, it would be better if they focus more on how the OTs
can help the people with disorders function better in their everyday lives.

·        
Getting parents, guardians or family
members of people with disorders to be part of this research

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Future Directions for Occupational Therapy

It is
important for everyone (parents, teachers, therapist, healthcare personnel etc)
to begin focusing on the long-term health and education needs for people of all
ages and how Occupational Therapy can benefit people with disabilities achieve
these needs.

 

On a
greater scale, more and more people are accepting the view that disability
results from the daily interaction between the individual and his environment,
rather than coming from within the person himself.

 

This
perspective stresses how the ability to carry out activities and participate in
life situations is an essential component of a person’s daily living.

 

Participation
is described as involvement in a person’s daily life and represents the highest
level in the hierarchy of functioning. Participation is the ultimate long-term
objective of occupational therapy and more focus should be placed on it. More
research should be conducted on how to help people with these disabilities to
integrate themselves into society.

 

The
individualized treatment approach implemented by occupational therapists
enables people with disabilities to meet the demands of their occupations,
promotes well-being, prevents disability and helps people of all ages maintain
optimum health.

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