Thursday, April 4, 2013

occupational therapy - what it looks like

each of harrison's OT sessions is just a bit unique but they all have the same format.

we arrive at STAR, sit in the waiting area for a few minutes until juliana comes to fetch us. she helps harrison put on his "jet pack" and headphones. the "jet pack" is a cool, boy-friendly term to describe a backpack. inside the backpack is a well-protected ipod which feeds music to the headphones that harrison wears while we play. this is called listening therapy. you can read more about it HERE and HERE. my understanding of it is that the music harrison listens to - mostly classical and some chant - has been engineered to highlight different tones. the different tones in the music - low, mid and high - affect the brain differently and help to create new pathways in the brain.

as i've stated before, i may be making all that up. so research it yourself! :-)

once his jet pack is in place we enter the gym. juliana has a plan book which holds a photo of every piece of equipment/game/fun thing to do at STAR center. harrison looks through the book, chooses 4-5 items and places them in the order he'd like to do them. he leads everything we do. he rates everything we do. if an activity is getting boring, we move on to the next activity. it's 100% fun, exciting, and interesting to harrison! 

we spend the next 50 minutes or so doing the activities harrison chose for that day. here is a brief description of some of his faves:

zip line - climb up a wooden tower (looks like a fort), zip down and drop into a ball pit. this can be adapted further by adding stuffed animals to the ball pit. he has to search for them. or he may have to carry them up the fort and figure out how to carry them back down the zip line without using his hands (holding them with his knees, stuff inside his shirt, etc). it has also been adapted by having him drop into a barrel instead of the pit...or knocking over a tower of foam blocks while zipping down...or raising his knees up so he doesn't knock over the foam blocks (adding more of an obstacle course aspect to the zip line).

swings - they have every kind of swing i've ever seen and more. i really need to take pictures. on his very first therapy session he chose a swing but also added in another activity - nerf guns. he had to aim and shoot at different things while swinging (tricky!). he's done spinning swings, rocket blaster swings, bucking bronco swings, a hot dog-looking type swing, trapeze swings, swings that are covered with a blanket so he can't see out. he pretended it was a boat and he traveled all over the world, stopping and starting frequently, to collect food for his passengers...tons of swinging action.

scooter board - basically this is a wooden board on wheels. they have a ramp to race down. he can crash into foam block towers, he can crash into soft pillows, he can race down feet first or head first, on his knees, on his tummy...STAR has a "stop" sign and "go" sign so he has to interact/talk with juliana and me while scooter-boarding.

rock climbing wall - he can simply climb or this can be made harder by climbing while carrying a little animal friend that, then, has to be placed at the top of the rock wall. or he has to climb up and rescue his animal friends.

hammocks - we attach little stuffed animals to the tippy-tops of the hammocks (that are tethered to the ceiling or high up on the walls) and he has to rescue them. one time we turned out the lights and he had to carry a flashlight to find, and rescue the animals. can you imagine how hard it would be to balance on a hammock, climb it, and manage to free at least one hand to unclip a stuffed animal? think about that for a second. it's hard work!

monkey bars - STAR has a set-up that includes monkey bars but it also has a bar contraption that allows the kids to use their body to "scoot" across the monkey bars. they sort of have to use their legs to swing out and get momentum to move the bar forward. hard to explain. harrison likes to do that, but his very favorite is when juliana attaches a large inner tube (like the kind for floating on a river) to the bar and she knots a rope at both ends so harrison has to use the rope to pull himself, hand over hand, from one side of the monkey bars to the other. he also pretends it is a fishing boat and he uses a magnetic fishing pole to catch paper fish from the ground below.

i believe that is most of the stuff he's done so far. juliana comes up with awesome ideas for making each activity new and exciting and interactive and fun.

so, in a nutshell, our sessions look like: arrive, put on jet pack, make a plan, play, go home. repeat.

it's kinda every kid's dream, isn't it?

an hour of receiving undivided attention that includes super fun play time and awesome activities?

occupational therapy: it's a good thing.

*edited to add that i've submitted a very slightly adapted version of this post to the spd blogger network. if you are in need of support because you are also on a journey of raising a child with sensory issues, i highly recommend you check out their blog. you are not alone!


April said...

That's interesting. My degree is in music therapy and listening therapy sounds like a form of music therapy, just without the live/interactive music aspect.

TutyFrutyJudy said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this! Your descriptions are fantastic! We've been gradually adding more activities and and equipment to our 'home therapy'. So these descriptions are really helpful in giving me better ideas to use what we have even better, more productively.

I'm so glad Harrison is enjoying it, and you too! Is your other little boy jealous that his brother gets to do this special play/therapy? How does he seem after his sessions and for how long do any effects last?

Thanks for such a great and informative post!

rachel white said...

april, i had forgotten your major was music THERAPY. i'm sure you would be intrigued to research more about integrated listen therapy. amazing how music affects (effects? i can never remember which one is correct) the brain!!

rachel white said...

yay judy! i'm so glad this post was helpful to you!

yes, it is VERY hard for graham to watch harrison play and not be able to participate. in fact, we've had to hire a sitter for him. it's just easier to keep him at home. (an added cost on top of already very expensive therapy, but much needed).

i will need to write an entire post on harrison's mood/changes/etc post therapy and how long they last. basically, after the very first OT session he was mister chatter box. we couldn't believe how much he was talking and interacting!! but we haven't noticed that same type of marked reaction since then. we have, however, noticed an overall increased level in his ability to interact/communicate/initiate conversation/think at a higher level/pretend. not a HUGE increase, but a noticable one. one step in the right direction, i'd say. :)

TutyFrutyJudy said...

I'm glad you can see how OT affects him with some immediate results. And it's good to know that it varies, sometimes subtle, others more obvious, gives me better ideas to gauge my kiddos reactions to thing that we do. It's the same for mine at home, some changes are really noticable somedays, others are much smaller.

Sorry Graham has a hard time with it. My middle babe is having a very rough time right now with just her older brother going to see a Psycologist! She might loose it if her little sister starts OT soon like we really hope she will. :( I'm still trying to find an activity that cam be all hers but like you said, won't break the bank.

Please keep us posted with updates as he tries out new activities and I hope you do write a post just on how he's responding to OT. It'll be great and really helpful, I know at least to me!

Loved your next one too with the pics of his acivities. I'm always surprised at how practical or rooms look. They always sound like a fantasy world and I guess I tend to envision that they will have special lighting or something.