Photo Credit-David Castillo Dominici @ Freedigitalphotos.net
Imagine being the only child in class who can’t write your name.
Imagine being the only child who completes a cutting activity with jagged edges, when everyone else hands in beautifully cut pictures.
Imagine being the only child who has no idea which way to turn when the teacher tells everyone to turn left.
Imagine being the only child who can’t complete the “spot the difference” worksheet that the teacher has handed out.
Imagine being the only child who thinks the school bell is too loud, the class lights are too bright and who wants to be at the back of the line all the time so as not to get bumped.
Those are the children who get referred for occupational therapy. By the time they come to me, they are usually feeling sad or mad inside, because they know they are not meeting the expectations of the adults around them. Their struggles are through no fault of their own, though those around them may think they just need to try harder.
I have seen all those kids in my therapy sessions. Some stayed for a short while, just needing a little bit boost to get on track with their peers. Some stayed longer, having challenges that needed months or years of intervention.
When I assessed them, my aim was to find out WHY they were struggling.
What was the root cause of their challenges?
And armed with that knowledge, I could not only plan effective therapy sessions with the child, but also help the parents and teachers and other important adults to UNDERSTAND what was happening in that child’s life.
For me, the key word is “understand”. It seems like such a little thing, but it makes a huge difference in a child’s life.
When a teacher understands the challenges the child faces, they can be more patient, grade the task to the child’s ability, and make the necessary adaptations in the class to help the child reach his or her potential. No good teacher wants to see a child struggle!
When parents understand why their child behaves differently to others, or why their child struggles to keep up with peers in any area, it can be a huge relief. They are able to help their child without taking the challenges personally, without feeling like a bad parent. They feel empowered. Empowered to make their home a safe, non-judgemental place for the child to be, empowered to anticipate and meet their child’s needs, and even empowered to answer questions from nosy relatives!
That’s why, for me, occupational therapy is not just about my time with the child. It also includes those little conversations I have with parents and teachers, little tips, explanations, ideas and adaptations to make the child’s life easier and their smile bigger.
Because it’s the little things that make life big!
Tracey le Roux
Tracey le Roux is a South African pediatric occupational therapist who is currently homeschooling her three kids. She writes to encourage, empower and inspire parents and teachers who may have some struggling kids in their lives. You can read her writings over at www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com
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