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What is Occupational Therapy?

OT is an interactive child guided therapy. OT uses multisensory activities that incorporate movement, touch, sight, sound and muscle input and provides your child the experiences he/she needs to master the demands of every day life. The occupation of childhood is to develop the skills necessary to become a functional, independent adult. These skills include: Regulation of arousal level in order to attend: Refinement of sensory discrimination and processing, continual refinement and development of fine motor and gross motor skills, development of communication skills, appropriate social interactive language, cognitive skills, age appropriate self care skills, self concept, and self-esteem.

What is SPD (Sensory Processing Dysfunction) and how do I know if my child has it?

Sensory integration is a normal, neurological, developmental process which begins in the womb and continues throughout ones’ life. It is important to note that the most influential developmental time is in the first seven years of life. Sensory processing is the process by which our brain takes in sensory input, organizes it and interprets this information for use.

SI, Sensory Integration, is the process by which the brain receives information from all of our senses (vision, hearing, movement, touch, taste), and interprets it so we can respond in an appropriate, effective, and meaningful way. Sensory processing provides the necessary foundation for more complex learning and behavior. Sensory processing is something most of us don’t even think about. It happens naturally, unconsciously, and spontaneously throughout our day (Stepping down when we see a curb, pulling our hand away from a hot flame, gently picking up a delicate object)). However, some children’s central nervous system has difficulty accurately perceiving or integrating the information it receives. If this neurological process becomes disrupted somewhere in the loop of intake, organization or output, then normal development and adaptive responses will not be achieved. As a result, learning, physical and emotional development, as well as behavior may be impacted.

It is this disruption which yields a neurological dysfunction called Sensory Integration Dysfunction/Sensory Processing Disorder.

Can SPD be cured?

SPD can’t be fully cured. However, with OTand related interventions the symptoms can be lessened. Research has shown that the nervous system and neural pathways are constantly changing and can be reprogrammed. This coupled with learned behavior and effective strategies helps children lead normal and productive lives!!

What is Fine Motor Coordination?

Fine Motor Skills refer to our ability to use our arms, hands, and fingers to grasp, hold, and manipulate smaller objects. These objects can range from a scissor, to a pencil, to a carrot; small items that most of us can hold onto with much ease. However, mastery of fine motor skills requires control and precision.  For some children, it does not come so easily. This can effect them in school as well as their social lives as it takes a toll on their ability to write clearly and legibly as well as play with toys, such as blocks.

What ls Gross Motor Coordination?

Gross motor coordination refers to our ability to effectively perform gross motor skills. Our gross motor skills are those skills that use the large muscles of our body in order to do some of the main movement functions. These include running, skipping, jumping, hoping, and riding a bicycle as well as a broad variety of other activities, including most athletic abilities. Most importantly, GMC is often related to muscle tone. Good muscle tone is needed for posture, balance, stamina and sustained muscle control in positions including sitting and standing. Children with low muscle tone often have difficultu with gross motor coordination. they may fatigue faster than their peers and appear clumsy, often affecting self esteem and motivation to participate in many typical childhood activite. OT can address and improve gross motor development on many levels.

Do all children on the Autism spectrum have Sensory Integration difficulties?

It is believed that 95% of children on the Autism spectrum have sensory integration difficulties. Children on the spectrum typically have a different way of perceiving the environment. This different sensory perception can interfere with the child’s ability to attend, learn, interact with the enironment, handle unpredictable situations and develop appropriate peer relationships. OT utilizes Sensory Integration therapy to help these children manage and master their environment as best as possible.

At what age should I be worried about my child’s handwriting?

You should be less concerned with your child’s actual handwriting, than with the overall development of hand muscles, grasp and coordination. Poor handwriting is more often than not, a symptom of  muscle weakness and/or more commonly an underlying sensory processing difficulty relating to how your child processes tactile (touch) input.
It is important not to force a child who is under the age of 5 to write! When Children are resistive to writing, it is generally for a reason. Your therapist will help you with pre-writing alternatives that will encourage your child to enjoy writing.