Updated: Feb 7, 2019
No doubt, we work with some AMAZING families here at Children In Motion. I am so blessed by all of the parents I work with- they are eager to learn, they engage in the OT experience, they ask about my family, they support CIM, and some of them are even willing to share their experiences on our blog! How did I get so lucky? I would like to introduce you to Mrs Laura Currey-Taseva, the author behind this post. She is an awesome & active mom of two kiddos, has taught at several local private schools, and is currently in school to further her counseling career. Enjoy and make sure you leave her some love in the comments!
OT - yep, we’ve done it. Yep, I’ve been skeptical, overzealous, ambivalent but mostly grateful. Our journey began when my daughter was in pre-school, and her speech-language pathologist gently encouraged us to get an OT evaluation. As a teacher of older children I always associated OT with kids who had fine motor weaknesses and needed help with handwriting. I mean, my kid was only 3, and she could cut with scissors well! As to gross motor I didn't know what to expect, she couldn't jump for a long time, but my husband and I are not the most graceful of folks so...
But being a first time and anxious parent we went along with the recommendation and had an OT evaluation completed. I felt reasonably confident that they would say maybe there were a few things my daughter needed to work on but that after a couple of sessions we'd be free to go on our merry way.
I might have been a little overly optimistic. I was also rather uninformed, despite years of teaching, about things such as sensory processing, vestibular systems, and motor planning. This meant that I was unprepared and overwhelmed by the lengthy evaluation we received. Rather quickly I went through the phases of wanting to reject everything the OT had said, but then I did the next thing that I do when in a parenting crisis - I grabbed a book. I read The Out of Sync child, and as I read I not only was able to understand my child better but I also saw glimpses of myself along the way.
So, yes. We started occupational therapy.
I watched my daughter climb silk swings, cross her midline, work on balancing skills and self-regulation. I watched her play in bins full of beans - it is amazing how they would get into socks, pants, etc. - draw figure eights on chalkboards, play games with straws, and so, so much more. I also watched her gain confidence and grow. When we realized her younger brother was ambidextrous and very active, we also had him assessed. Ironically, the OT needs and sensory profiles are on opposite sides of the spectrum. OT remained in our lives, but this time I was getting it, AND I was seeing how it helped my children.
What have I learned through all this? Nothing is as straightforward as it seems, but that pretty much sums up parenting, right?
When my children were younger many behaviors and reactions I can now attribute to their sensory and motor issues. For example, my daughter melts down when in loud and chaotic settings, and they trigger anger in her. My son loves noisy and chaotic environments, and they thrust his energy level (engine) to high, and he loves it and is happy.
It has meant that as a parent I learned how to help my children regulate themselves so that we could then work on their behavioral reactions. It means that I better understand why they love or hate different activities, and how I can help support them as they need it. It also means that I can watch them do an activity and can see it through an OT lens. For example, my kids loved to play with shaving cream and watercolors. When I watch them swirl their hands through the shaving cream to mix the colors, instead of just being a fun activity that keeps them occupied, I see that it provides sensory stimulation for them and calms them. It means that we celebrated getting the training wheels off of our bicycles tremendously. I see the value in swing sets, rock walls, jungle gyms, and even the taboo of climbing up a slide at the park in a different light. I see picking blueberries as a great way to practice the pincer grasp and
a delicious one as well.
Occupational therapy has been a journey. It is one that we enter and take a break from and enter again for different reasons and goals in mind. I have watched my daughter approach playgrounds, roller skating rinks, rock walls, and obstacle courses equipped with a plan and with confidence. I have watched my son choose a dominant hand and watched him gain strength and skill when he writes and draws. I have watched him gravitate towards activities that feed his body. Over the years, we have tried different strategies and different toolkits and taken advice with a grain of salt. At the time of that very first appointment,I did not realize the journey would take us so far and teach us so much, but it has.
So, give it a chance, educate yourself, and talk to your therapist. Have him or her sit down with you and explain things in various ways until you understand. Talk to other parents in the waiting room and ask them questions. Occupational therapy is just one way out of many that we can help our kids get out in the world better equipped to handle its challenges.