Savanna has been receiving therapy since the early days of her epilepsy diagnosis and the resulting regression. These are called ‘services’ in the special needs world. Occupational Therapy (OT) is one type of service she receives. What is that you might ask? No, we are not teaching her to sew, paint, or cook, (although all that would be great).
Given her significant developmental delays that are global in nature, she needs help learning about her environment around her. Unlike a typical child who “just does” in many respects, she needs more deliberate education than the typical 2-year-old toddler. We teach her about aspects of how she occupies her time; what the shape sorter, the puzzle, the baby doll, the play fruit and veggies, are really about.
Since her medical diagnosis of ASD, we have learned that a more intense approach to her education works better. Overcoming her behaviors that restrict her learning is part of the challenge. But, with OT, the goal is maintaining interest and focus on a play-based tasks, completing those tasks, and making a new choice. What has worked well for Savanna is an ABA-style approach. We don’t just present the shape sorter, dump the shapes, and say “Okay, let’s go!” We break the process down into very small, guided segments.
We challenge her brain while recognizing her knowledge absorption rate.
We teach her about her visual field cut in a way that slowly brings her to see it and understand it for herself.
We work to reduce the difference between the motor skills of her right and left arms.
We focus on completing a task, cleaning up, and then making a choice about the next activity.
We encourage desired language skills.
All this, while battling her restrictive behaviors that often derail all education efforts.
Here are some video clips from recent sessions.
This is a little routine where she stacks the blocks in a free manner. She did great here, stacking 5 blocks!! (…and she can now stack about 9 blocks)
Notice we don’t just hand her a block, but it is a “blue” or “purple” block. We are always teaching. Also, notice she adjusted her holding hand when the stack go too long to manage. This action is a good sign of awareness.
The magnetic shape sorter was simply awesome this day! To see her do this so quickly was amazing.
The giant shape sorter speaks for itself. She has been working on this one for about 5 months now. Today wasn’t her best day with this toy, but still a good day.
2-pc puzzles. Very, very simple but yet very challenging in both concept and real play. The way we are starting the 2-piece puzzle is the way all previous activities started so many months ago; hand over hand, strongly guided.
The fruits of her labor in these sessions overflow to the rest of her life.
She listens more and screams less.
She obeys more and disobeys less.
She is able to get into more mischief, but also understands more about what she is doing (right or wrong).
She is learning.
I recently remarked about skills acquired by young children while learning to walk. Unlike those thoughts, I feel strongly our intervention in the form of OT and Cognitive therapy has altered her course. Maybe it hasn’t changed the ultimate outcome, but I do think we are affecting the rate she gains these skills. It is at her own pace, but one we follow closely and encourage in every way.
Many Thanks to Nikki at Reach Therapy and Tammi with ECI here in Houston, Texas.
More on her developmental progress in the next post.