The Gross Motor Skills
A severely physically disabled child will need to refine their gross motor skills in order to communicate with an AAC device. The new communication devices are more sophisticated and sensitive then they used to be, which can be both beneficial and/or challenging depending on the student’s unique impairments. Not every child with Cerebral Palsy has the same symptoms, depending upon the areas that have lost oxygen, certain parts of the brain can be damaged. In the therapy realm this fact is the reason why it is important devices be customized to each client.
As a mentor in the disabled realm my job is to ask children questions the occupational therapist might not think to ask. A child instinctively uses the body part they have most control over; therefore the occupational therapist will just have to follow the patient’s lead. When I was little the occupational therapists tried to make me use my fingers with my AAC device, but we quickly discovered that the neck was the strongest body part I had. The child knows their body and will tell you in someway which body part works best.
The Occupational Therapist needs to think outside the box because I have clients who use their eyes to operate their communication device and are otherwise able to function as “normal” students. The occupational therapist’s role is facilitating access to the communication device, and other educational adaptive technology, to aide in student communication and their ability to compete with able bodied peers. If my occupational therapist had insisted I use my hands to communicate, I honesty think I wouldn’t have had the chance to accomplish my educational goals. The occupational therapists duty is to ensure the student has access to the right talker or other AAC device (this also means mounting the talker in a comfortable place to aide in fully functional communication).
The Occupational Therapist is essential to my job as a mentor, because I do turn to the professional if a client is struggling with their AAC device. The occupational therapist is also the person on the IEP team who takes on the responsibility of creating a unique work space to make the individual as comfortable as possible. Being a mentor with disabilities the occupational therapist will often need my input to the students access method. My service to occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists is derived from my own struggles and what I went through starting out with communication devices. I like to ask the client what feels right to them. I ask the most radical questions like “do you have more control of your eye lid?”, “Can you twitch your cheek?” with my successful predictions the occupational therapists can take over from their and match the technology in which work best for that particular child.
The occupational therapist and speech therapist work as a team to make communication possible for the child. With my assistance the occupational therapist. understands how to maximize the child’s stronger limb to aide communication. The occupational therapist also has the role of securing a quiet work space, with the right equipment for the student to work independently. The O.T. just like the rest of us holds a special role in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) ensemble; so parents it is beneficial to have a occupational therapist on the team. For a child to be successful it will take a village of us professionals to aide in the child’s success.
Until next time, Enjoy your children.
Occupational Therapists (OT) working with children need to understand how to incorporate play when working on fine motor skills. The Occupational therapy needs to be playful for the child to be engaged just as I do in mentoring sessions. If the child needs to work on fine motor skills with their hands give them play dough to manipulate, as this will feel like a normal activity for the kid. I have worked with Occupational Therapists, and as a mentor in the disability realm, I use play as a vice to get through to the child.
As professionals in the disability world, we tend to get wrapped up in the child meeting their IEP goals and forget to make the sessions age appropriate and enjoyable. The Occupational Therapist plays a key role in the fitting of a device for a student, as we need to first determine what body part is going to be most functionally. The Occupational Therapist and Speech Therapist usually work closely together in figuring out what body part will be the most successful.
The Occupational Therapists along with the rest of the therapists on the child’s IEP team need to work together in the process of getting the student talking. Once the Occupational Therapist can determine what body part will work best for the individual, the Speech-Language Pathologist and I are now able to go in and work on determining what AAC device would fit the child best. The quicker the Occupational Therapist is able to figure out how the child is able to work a body part efficiently, the quicker I am able to perform my job with the Speech-Language Pathologist.
Every summer I speak to graduate students in speech and occupational therapy on how to get young children to communicate because both realms of work coincide with one another. The child is legally entitled to receive the best form of therapy that will make them successfully functional in school. The IEP team is going to need the Occupational Therapist to create a work space that the child can effectively access. I depend on my clients’ Occupational Therapist and physical therapist to properly position the adolescent so they are able to use their devices. The Occupational Therapists give us the appropriate body part to work with, and I along with the Speech-Language Pathologist start working with different devices until we find the right fit.
Students in both speech and occupational therapy need to understand that for a talker to work, the child using the device needs to feel absolutely comfortable with it. Because the Occupational Therapist is trained in fine motor skills, they can figure out how to get the device that is going to work best with the child. As someone who has spent the last six years mentoring severely physical disabled children, I am going to strongly advise you to listen to the child you are working with as they will know what body part is the strongest.
AAC devices come with a plethora of access methods because everyone is different and therefore they have different needs. As I have mentioned in the previous blogs, even the most disabled child has the potential to make a life for themselves. The first step is for the Speech Therapist and the Occupational Therapist to conduct an assessment with the person to figure out what they need to have in order to find their voice. The occupational therapist is a vice to get the child to communicate, and once the child gains the ability to communicate, you will be amazed at what the child is able to accomplish.
Until next time, enjoy your children!
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