The occupational therapy approach is to see each child as a whole: i.e. as a physical, emotional, social, cognitive being, within a very specific environment and also at a very specific stage of development. Apart from this, each child has his/her very own temperament, which colours all his/her reactions.
For this reason, the occupational therapy is geared towards each child's specific needs, and always includes the parent's circumstances and their needs.
The baby experiences his world through all his senses and reacts to any stimuli with his whole being. His reactions are always sensory-motor e.g. kicking, smiling, and cooing.
The toddler will exhibit a more complex reaction to stimuli, because he is influenced by past experiences and his reasoning power is emerging.The occupational therapist therefore needs to address the baby/toddler's development from a sensory as well as physical aspect for optimal earliest learning!
The first 3 years of life are critical for the building of a stable development foundation, upon which all further skills are built. If there are barriers preventing this, the child is not able to reach his/her potential. The occupational therapist must therefore assess all aspects of the child's function, relevant to his/her expected stage of development, before treatment can begin.
Needs of every child for adequate learning:
- Sensory-motor-integration health
- hearing, vision, touch, smell, taste, movement (adaptability)
- Physical (physiological) health
- calm (not irritable), good stamina, endurance
- Emotional maturity
- good care-giver relationships
- good interaction tolerance with and of the environment
- self confidence
- can control emotions
- can express emotions
- Social maturity
- good interaction with other people
- good communication of needs and feelings
- considerate of others
- Adequate supportive parenting
- Perceptual and cognitive abilities
- from birth, ability to make sense of his environment
- interpretation of stimuli
- creativity - unique utilisation of information
- Gross and fine motor skills
- age related gross motor milestones e.g. crawling, walking - in order to explore environment
- age related fine motor skills e.g. dressing, eating, drawing - in order to execute "ideas".
If the above needs are inadequately met, occupational therapy can help your child to adapt, grow and develop his/her skills, in order to reach his/her unique potential.
The main medium of treatment is through play and interaction, and various techniques are used to foster the child's development. Neuro-developmental therapy and sensory motor integration form the basis, although other techniques are often included.
Children vary considerably in how they perceive sight, sounds, touch, odors and movement patterns. A child may be overly sensitive and thus over reactive or undersensitive and thus underreactive to a given sensory experience.
Comprehending information through some senses may be very difficult and the resultant reason for a developmental delay. For example: A baby who is oversensitive to movement may overreact to movement stimulation and therefore fix in what is a security position for her, and thereby avoiding postural changes. This in turn may prevent crawling experiences.
Sensory Integration treatment helps the child’s senses to work together, to enable a purposeful response to stimuli to occur. Sensory information needs to be integrated in the Central Nervous System (CNS), and that information is then used by the child to interact effectively with his world. Responding with effective behaviour in turn allows a good learning experience and the CNS becomes more organized.
When the process of receiving information, integrating it and responding to it is faulty, we see a child who has difficulty learning, feels uncomfortable about himself and cannot cope easily with ordinary demands and stress.
The central idea of this therapy is to provide and control sensory input through play, which is the child’s primary occupation. The therapeutic sensory input from the vestibular system, the joints and muscles and the skin, is used in such a way that the child spontaneously forms a purposeful response, and the sensations are integrated. Similarly, the therapist can apply sensory stimuli, such as tactile input, for either inhibiting or facilitating effects, depending on the needs of the child.
The senses, Integration of their inputs, and their end products
The combination or synthesis of this Sensory Integration therapy and the Neuro-developmental therapy has proven to be of great benefit for many children with multiple handicaps.