On Monday, Brian Stephenson, Director of Occupational Therapy at Compass Community Health Care Center was the guest speaker at the Portsmouth Rotary luncheon in the Shawnee State University Sudexo Ballroom.
Stephenson opened by explaining not only rehabilitation and geriatric patients have a need for occupational therapy, but children do sometimes, as well.
“Children have certain things they need to do independently, too,” Stephenson said. “We want to help them have functional independence and quality of life.”
When occupation is mentioned most people think of a career: professor, banker or employment of some kind.
“A child’s occupation is play.” he said. That is how the therapy is designed, keeping children in mind.
Pediatric occupational therapy is aimed at the unique needs of each individual child and is provided through meaningful activity, so as to keep the child motivated and invested in the therapeutic process.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t play a card game, board game or a video game,” he said. “I have the best job in the world.”
Some of those who benefit from Pediatric Occupational Therapy are those children with ADHD, Sensory Processing disorder, Dyspraxia, Developmental delays, Anxiety, Oppositional Defiance disorder, Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Spina Bifida.
Challenges that might be faced are fine motor: handwriting difficulties and coordination, gross motor: balance & core strength, visual-perceptual: brains ability to make sense of what the eyes see, important for reading and writing, cutting, drawing, math problems; visual-motor: hand-eye coordination, difficulty coordinating movements guided by vision; self-help skills: dressing and bathing, grooming, eating/feeding/meal prep; social-emotional skills: behavioral challenges, social interaction, communication, language challenges, emotional regulation.
“Autism leads to a lot of developmental and incognitive delays,” Stephenson explained. “Something that seems simple to us can be insurmountable in the eyes of a child. Something as simple as getting dressed, putting my shirt on right or can I even get my arms through the holes, can be a sensory overload to a child.”
The task of completion at age appropriate levels is not easy for these kids. Not only the coordination, but the sensory processing of it can be overloading to them.
“They may not be able to brush their teeth because of the way it feels, ” he explained.
Something that typically would last under a minute with a developing child can last up to an hour with a child experiencing sensory delays.
“This is where everyone starts to self-diagnosis when I talk,” Stephenson warned. “Clumsy child they’ll say, well they’re not clumsy, there is a reason for all of this.”
The following are examples of a sensory processing disorder. It is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.
Your clothes feel like they were made of fiberglass.
The different smells in this room make you utterly nauseous.
Every time you try to write with your pencil, it broke because you push too hard.
“I get my cup of orange juice in one of those little styrofoam cups and I do not know how hard to squeeze it to hold onto it,” Stephenson gave insight to motor skills. “So I squeeze too hard and my juice is all over me.”
He talked about how quickly the direction of their sensory process can change.
“The next morning, I think ‘I can’t hold it too tight’ so I don’t hold on tight enough and the juice is all over the floor.”
Other things that a child of this sense may experience are the humming of the lights sound louder than my voice and every time someone touches you, it feels like they are rubbing sandpaper on your skin.
”We use our ‘fun stuff’ to help these children.” Stephenson said, “The ball pits, our swings, video games, we have a whole array of things to help the kids.”
Reach Brian Stephenson, Director of Occupational Therapy
(740) 351-1503 or email@example.com