The Occupation of Living
Last week I attended a webinar on Occupational Therapy in Adoption through the Adoptive Families Association of BC (AFABC).
Before attending the webinar I didn’t really know what an Occupational Therapist (OT) did, or that they also worked with children and not just adults.
I had thought that an “Occupational” Therapist only worked with those of us who had a job…or an “occupation”.
But the title Occupational Therapist comes from the notion that they support the “occupation” of living.
The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists defines the role this way:
“Occupational therapy is the art and science of enabling engagement in everyday living, through occupation; of enabling people to perform the occupations that foster health and well-being; and of enabling a just and inclusive society so that all people may participate to their potential in the daily occupations of life.”
(Townsend & Polatajko, 2007, p. 372)
What I learned from this webinar in relation to how an OT may be able to help my future children…
Typically, an OT will work with children who have the following diagnosis:
- Brain injuries (including temporary injuries such as concussion)
- Muscular Dystrophy
- ADD & ADHD
- Cerebral Palsy
- Sensory Processing Disorders
- Developmental Coordination Disorder
- Developmental Delays
- Juvenile Arthritis
However, they are not restricted to working only with children who have a diagnosis, they also work with children who need assistance in other ways including (but not limited to):
- Motor skills and coordination
- Speech assistance
- All eating disorders
- Sleep disorders, or interrupted sleep patterns
- Grief and loss
- Learning difficulties
- Playing with others
There is no requirement to have a referral to an OT, however, if the OT time is to be claimed against health insurance (which is possible) then a referral may be required by your insurance provider. Be sure to check.
One thing that did impress me about how an OT works is that they get into “spaces” with the child. That is, rather than taking a child once a week to an office where the therapist talks with the child or plays with the child in that environment, an OT will come to the child and observe and interact with them in their own environment.
The OT will go to the school, observe the child in the classroom, during recess and lunch, while they are eating, and while they are doing activities. They will watch how they interact with other children, or with equipment, or with authority figures. They will also interview the teachers and support staff to gain a perspective from those who interact with the child daily.
Note: “At School” includes playgroup or daycare. Yes, I was surprised to learn that an OT will work with children of pre-school age.
They talk with the parents or caregivers. They will come into your home, observe the child in their home environment. Watch them as they do the tasks that they may be having troubles with, or watch them before and after the task that is causing trouble to assess what might be the problem or trigger.
They will also sometimes ask the parents to record a video of the problems (such as tantrums, or difficulties with motor skills, or problems eating…) so that the OT can observe the incident as it happens.
At Leisure, or outside of school & home:
For example: at dance classes, or outside the home sporting activities, etc. They meet the child wherever the child is showing that they need assistance.
Once their assessment has been completed, they make recommendations for change and growth. They recommend and implement strategies to help the child improve and to help the family support the child through the improvement and beyond.
These recommendations are as varied as the child and tailored to each specific child’s needs.
They may include things like:
- physical aids such as wheelchairs, or walking/sitting/standing aids
- games and play therapies to increase fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, gain strength or stability in the body,
- helping kids with social skills, learning how to talk with others, to interact positively, and share,
- teach children about tolerance, and safety,
- help them learn new ways to succeed at daily tasks such as eating, brushing teeth, dressing, toileting,
- teaching a child how to control emotions, anger management, and to self-regulate,
- teaching a child boundaries, how to set them and how to accept them,
- helping a child with transitions both in the daily sense, and the broader adoption sense,
- provide access to tools that will assist within the classroom,
- setting up strategies for the parents to continue the strides made with all of the above in the daily tasks, routines, transitions, etc.
How to choose an OT?
The webinar host recommended asking some qualifying questions of a potential OT before you bring that person into the child’s life. Such as, years of experience, have they worked with children who had…(this issue)…before? What training have they completed since becoming an OT? Are they up to date on new understandings?
And of course cost. We were informed this is somewhere between $100-140 per hour (not including travel time).
An OT may be covered by the Post Adoption Assistance Program for those of us who are creating families through adoption.
While the webinar only went for 1 hour and a lot of time was taken in talking about what an OT does and the qualifications they have, I was still quite surprised to learn what they do and how thorough they are in their assessments.
For me, to have someone come into my child’s environment to observe, assess, and make recommendations, rather than me take them to an ‘out of their environment’ room to be assessed seems like a great idea.
Consulting an OT is definitely something I would consider should my child need support in any of the ways listed or if a doctor/therapist/school recommended it.
Thank you to the AFABC for providing this informative webinar and getting the word out there about the assistance that an OT could provide.
Have you used an OT before? How did you (and your child) find the experience?
Warm smiles and Love,