With the rise of autism and the promotions to increase autism awareness, April is a pretty full month. However, autism shares April with occupational therapy, and the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) lovingly calls April “OT Month.”
The AOTA says an occupational therapist or OT assistant’s “holistic and customized approach to evaluations, interventions, and outcomes help a child with disabilities participate in school and in social situations, assist a person recovering from injuries to regain skills, aid an older adult to stay as independent as possible, and offer the specialized support and services to people of all ages and in all circumstances that only occupational therapy can provide.”
Many parents of special needs children know about occupational therapy. If you do not, now is the time to do research and discover how an occupational therapist might be able to help your child. Occupational therapy is often a part of a child’s IEP, and while educators, doctors, and other therapists assist your child in many daily functions, this team becomes much stronger with the assistance of an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapy helps children through developmental milestones, and they help improve a person’s ability to function independently. The activities of daily living, such as getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, eating morning cereal, walking to school, sitting quietly and still at a desk, playing at recess, helping with dinner and dishes, taking a shower, and going to bed, are all functions many people take for granted, as some individuals have difficulty with these tasks. Occupational therapists work from age newborn through adult, which often accounts for misperceptions or people not quite understanding what occupational therapy is.
Occupational therapy includes the use of work, self-care, and play activities. Through these activities, the therapist and child learn ways to deal with an obstacle and work on modifications or adaptations to improve quality of life. Each activity might be fun for the client, but they work on specific therapeutic goals. For example, placing dry spaghetti vertically into a Styrofoam cup and stringing cereal on each spaghetti strand works on eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, grasp, finger strength, in-hand manipulation, and visual perception. Another example is the use of swings to promote balance, posture, and sensory integration.
Celebrate OT Month by acknowledging your occupational therapist, and spread the word through social media. Write a post on Facebook or use the hashtag “#OTMonth” on Twitter. If you have a blog, write about how occupational therapy has helped your child or yourself. April is OT Month, but you can celebrate it year-round.