Sunday, April 12, 2015

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY: It's the Little Things that Make Life BIG!

Thanks to Abby at OT Cafe for this special guest post!
One of my favorite things about being an occupational therapist is celebrating all of the “little things” that make a big difference in the lives of the children and families we work with. It is truly an honor to help guide families through challenging situations.

Tyler* was a 7 year old boy whose mother brought him into the clinic for an occupational therapy evaluation. Tyler was bright and active and inquisitive. An outsider might have called him “all boy” and told his mother that that’s just the way boys are. As an OT, I immediately noticed his sensory seeking behaviors. Not only did Tyler have difficulty sitting still, but he was touching EVERYTHING and bumping into EVERYTHING and making noise with EVERYTHING. And not only was Tyler constantly on the go, but I could tell that this constant activity was sending him straight to a place of overstimulation. Not a good combination.

Tyler’s mother, as mothers often are during evaluations, was embarrassed by his behavior and trying to get him to calm down. I assured her that what he was doing was just fine; that I wanted to see Tyler in action. I explained to her that the best way for me to help her and her son was by getting a clear picture of their current challenges. I could tell that Tyler’s mother was exasperated and not sure what to do. She wasn’t even sure if bringing him in for an evaluation was the right thing to do. I assured her that it never hurts to get a professional’s opinion and that I was there to help her, not judge her parenting skills.

So what was the little thing that made a big difference for this mother and her son? Education about sensory processing. As a pediatric OT, this is something I do every day, but for the mother it was life changing. I could see it all click for her as I explained why I thought Tyler was doing what he was doing. I tried out some potential sensory diet** activities with Tyler and brainstormed with his mother how they could incorporate these activities at home. By the end of the session, I sent them on their way with a list of activities to try and a piece of Theraband. We scheduled a follow-up visit for the next week.

So why the Theraband? When I asked Tyler’s mother about her main priorities, the first thing she said was, “I would love for Tyler to be able to sit down at the table when we eat dinner. He just can’t sit still.” Tyler and I tried out some seating options in the clinic and he reported that he liked kicking the Theraband while he sat. I told you this kid is bright! With just a little guidance, he was able to identify what his body needed.

I will never forget when Tyler and his mother came back for their follow-up session. They walked into the room and Tyler’s mother said, with tears in her eyes, “Thank you so much! I put the band on Tyler’s chair as soon as we got home and that night we were able to eat dinner all together at the table for the first time.”

It truly is the little things that make life BIG!
 -For more information on using Theraband on chair legs, check out this post at Therapy Fun Zone. 
 - Looking for an alternative to Theraband on the legs of chair? Check this out!
*name changed
**Always consult with an occupational therapist to determine appropriate sensory diet activities for your child.

Abby Brayton-Chung is a pediatric occupational therapist with eight years of experience helping families and children in a variety of settings, including public and private schools, clinic-based, and home-based early intervention. She shares her passion for OT on her blog at You can also find Abby on Twitter (@AbbyPediatricOT), Instagram (@abbypediatricot), and Pinterest.

To read another post in the "little things" series, click HERE!


  1. Timely post and success story for OT for sure. Interesting that I read this post and about the sister of the winner of the Masters Golf Tournament on Sunday, Jordan Speith. His mother commented that he would not be where he is today without growing up with his sister...."Trying to sit around and have dinner when his sister doesn’t want to eat when everybody else is eating and has a fit, that’s real life.” You can read the article here