Many times as an Occupational Therapist, I find myself wanting to give my clients things to do in the home. Whether that is the parents of the kids that I work with, or the adult clients, having them follow through with activities and tasks on a daily basis in the home and community is really where they are going to master the skills I am trying to teach them. I typically see a child once a week for an hour and if they are receiving therapy in the schools it may only be 30 minutes a week or even less. It is imperative that the families, caregivers and clients themselves follow through with homework to be able to learn and utilize the techniques and skills their OT has implemented for them.
For example, if I am working with a child trying to increase their fine motor skills and I want them to be able to hold a pencil or crayon with a functional writing grasp, I really need the parents at home and the teachers at school to practice hand exercises and games to help strengthen those muscles and encourage the child to use the functional tools I have provided for them to be successful. If I am working on giving parents a list of activities to do at home and in the community, I would typically give them a handout explaining these certain activities to follow through during the days until the child comes back to see me the next week.
Many times my families would say, 'I don't understand what you mean by do heavy work activities, or play with thera-putty.' I found that it was important that I was communicating to the families of the children I see on a regular basis, but I really wanted them to understand and comprehend what their child's occupational therapy was all about.
Teaming up with parent and producer Jackie Olson who has a son with autism, we created a DVD series that works as a visual learning tool for families, caregivers, teachers and other therapists to use in the home, community and schools. This has turned out to be a great way to give my families homework so they can truly understand how to help their child benefit from therapy and use the given tools and techniques in the child's environment. Many times I have parents who will complain that during my one-hour therapy session Johnny is so well behaved and transitions without crying or throwing a temper tantrum, but at home he does not do as well and he throws 5 tantrums a day.
It is important for me as the Occupational Therapist to communicate to these parents and give them tools to use to help with these common situations. By giving them visual examples on the DVD's they can see exactly how to provide their child with therapeutic activities, and sensory activities that can help smooth transitions and when in the middle of a tantrum, help calm them down to be able to make that transition to the next activity.
Every child is different so even with the DVD's as great resources, I still provide specific child-centered activities and tips for every family that I work with depending on their specific needs.
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