On April 26th, I completed 4 hours and 45 minutes of observation under 4 Occupational Therapists at The Children’s Therapy Corner. The Children’s Therapy Corner in Midland, MI was such a beautiful facility with amazing staff. These OT’s really knew how to engage each child and make their therapy assessments unique to them.
As stated by CTC’s website;
Pediatric occupational therapy focuses on developing and enhancing a child’s daily living skills in order to reach his or her highest level of independence. This is accomplished through providing meaningful therapeutic activities to meet each child’s unique needs. Those who may benefit from pediatric occupational therapy include children whose lives have been affected by birth injury, developmental delay, accident, illness or sensory processing disorder.
Every day, countless children experience problems that significantly affect their ability to manage their daily lives. Occupational therapists can help children achieve or regain a high level of independence. When skill and strength cannot be developed or improved, occupational therapy offers creative solutions and resources for carrying out the child’s daily activities using strategies and equipment designed just for them.
Occupational Therapists specialize in:
- Fine-motor skills and grasp
- Gross motor skill largely concerning upper extremities and trunk stability
- Joint range of motion, muscle strength and muscle tone
- Visual and perceptual skills
- Motor planning and bilateral coordination
- Sensory processing
- Functional activities to improve daily living and play skills
Occupational therapy is an extensive field that treats a wide range of conditions and diagnoses. Some of the conditions treated include:
- Sensory processing disorders
- Cerebral palsy or other neuromuscular conditions
- Pervasive developmental disorders
- Down syndrome and other genetic disorders
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Brachial Plexus injuries and other upper extremity injuries
- Fine motor and handwriting challenges
- Feeding difficulties
- Visual motor and visual perceptual deficits
- Difficulties with dressing, hygiene and other aspects of self-care
- Difficulties with play and other social skills
I met 6 kids in the span of 4 hours with a range of disabilities from autism, to hypo tonic, to down syndrome and leukemia, and oculomotor disabilities. They really focused on getting everyone calm by going through the tunnel with a band like the green one pictured above, or through swinging in them, or even through a compressor of rolly pins. These “compression” techniques help calm the body and allow them to realize their proprioceptors. Everyone also worked on spelling or doing a puzzle, or assembling objects. These are designed to help the muscles and fibers controlling the hand regain strength and coordination with the visual sensory system. They also all focused on the vestibular system (balance) by spinning them multiple ways, multiple times in any of the hundreds of different types of swings and on a spinning rectangle. Once they stopped spinning, they would “bump” their joints by squeezing them and pushing them internally and externally. To have the kids discover their tactile senses and proprioceptors, they had a brush that would run over their limbs. They had a trampoline and obstacle course to also improve their strength. The OTs had some of the kids catch and then throw bean bags at three cartoon faces into their mouths that would then become hats as it was hit with a bean bag which would then need to be re-thrown to make their hats mouths again. They focused on the child’s coordination and motor planning skills through puzzles, making a “lazer” beam course out of tape, climbing on a giant air balloon, and even tying a wooden shoe.
The most interesting child to observe was the child who has hypo tonic muscles which just means his muscle tone is weak and flacid. The OT had him do multiple unique activities. He had him spinning on the rectangle, jumping on the trampoline, climb a slide without his legs/feet, build Lego animals with his legs balancing on a rolly pin and using his arms to hold him up and his scapular muscles to move the Legos, standing on one foot, standing on both feet on a swing while putting clothespins on the lines holding the swing up, etc.
Overall, this experience was exhilarating and such an amazing learning experience. Watching these children improve these skills and hearing their OTs say how much they’ve improved, is why I love this career field. Still unsure of what population I would like to work with in the future, but I am definitely in love with the OTs work I’ve observed today.