Saturday, November 25, 2017

What's OT?

Let's set the record straight! 

Occupational therapy is a career in the healthcare profession. Occupational therapists can work with people of all ages and abilities: from children to older adults with physical or cognitive deficits. Our goal is to get the individual as independent and successful as possible with the things that are meaningful to them.

What's an occupation?

Basically, an 'occupation' is anything meaningful that occupies a person's time. For a child with autism or physical disability, their occupations might include being able to color in a picture, write their name, cut with scissors, type on the keyboard, tie their shoes, or play! For an older adult who suffered a stroke, their important occupations might include being able to feed themselves, bathe themselves, or dress themselves more independently.

Who receives occupational therapy?

It varies setting to setting, so I'll mostly speak from a school-based pediatric perspective. But basically, the person is referred for an OT evaluation by either a doctor, teacher, or case manager. During evals, the OT looks at certain skills, including the person's upper body strength, endurance, motor coordination, sensory processing, and most importantly, their function to perform their daily occupations. Are they able to hold a pencil? Write their name? Cut and maneuver scissors? Zip together a zipper? Attend to tasks in the classroom? Copy a paragraph from the board? OT's try to uncover what the limitations are and what the real issue is. Is it a fine motor limitation,  visual perceptual issue, or sensory processing deficit? There are formal OT evaluations with a scoring criteria, and basically, if they score within a specific low range or if they have obvious functional limitations, then they can qualify for OT services. Based off their skills and limitations during the evaluation, certain goals are set, and the OT's role is to help them achieve those goals.

How do we treat those in OT?

This is the fun part of my job. Occupational therapists have the creative freedom to work towards the person's goals by whatever means necessary. For example, if a child is unable to hold a pencil or write properly because they have weak muscles in their hand, then I can do hand strengthening activities using objects such as tongs, theraputty, and yes- even a turkey baster! OTs might also provide modifications to the environment to help make the person more successful with tasks. I have a lot of fun trying to be creative with my treatment sessions because the kids seem to work harder towards their goals when it doesn't feel like work.

How can you become an OT?

School, school, and then more school! I earned a Master's degree in Occupational Therapy from Seton Hall in 2016. I was part of a dual degree program, which means I did 3 years of undergrad and was guaranteed a spot into the 3 year graduate program if I maintained a certain GPA. I was in a small cohort of about 30 others (shoutouts to my shubies). I would say about half were from the dual degree program like me and the other half applied into the graduate school program (meaning there was only about 15 people accepted into the program). I would HIGHLY recommend trying to get into a dual degree program if you know early enough that you're interested in OT. If you're an outsider applying into an OT program, make sure your resume and your application letter truly reflects why they should choose you in their program! So to officially become an OT, you need: 1) A master's degree in OT, 2) A passing grade on the NBCOT (national board exam), and 3) An OT license through your state. I'll be real... it wasn't an easy process. OT school would sometimes kick my butt and turned this straight A student into being happy with just any passing grade. But as difficult as the road was, it goes by so quickly and is all just a preparation for the craziness to come for the future! If you want more information on the OT graduate school process, comment to let me know!

So if you can't tell... I love being an OT and I'm glad share my experiences and help raise awareness as to what Occupational Therapy is and how it all works!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving Feast: Free thanksgiving games, crafts, and activities for kids

Stuff The Turkey
Game for hand strengthening, endurance, visual-motor skills, motor planning, bilateral coordination
- Turkey baster - $1
- Pom poms - $1
- Construction paper 

- Squeeze the turkey baster to puff out air and blow the pompoms into the turkey's mouth! 
- Fun and exciting game to work on hand strengthening, hand endurance, bilateral coordination, visual-motor skills, and motor planning.

The Thankful Turkey 
Color, cut, paste activity with FREE printout here! Step by step instructions included.
- Paper / Printer
- Crayons / Markers
- Scissors
- Glue
- A simple color, cut, paste activity that can be done with children from K-5. Have them complete all the steps to put together the turkey. Works on handwriting skills, coloring, cutting, organizational skills, and following directions.
- The activity incorporates fine motor, graphomotor, bilateral coordination, visual motor, visual perceptual,  and following direction skills.

Turkey Feather Clothespins
Fine motor, pincer grasp activity to promote finger strengthening
- Clothespins
- Construction paper, laminated
(Can also use brown cardboard or card stock)

- Have the child 'give the turkey feathers' by clipping on the clothespins and when they're done 'pluck them' all off. 
- Works on fine motor skills, finger strengthening, bilateral coordination, using stabilizing hand, and using pincer grasp.

Turkey Stuffing
Fine motor hand strengthening and coordination activity 
- Spikey koosh balls ($2) 
- Tongs/Tweezers/Chopsticks ($1)
- Container ($1 for 5 pack)
- Scissors / Hole puncher
- Construction paper 

- Have the child transfer the koosh balls using using tongs/tweezers into the 'turkey's belly' (plastic container with hole in it) 
- Great for younger children in Pre-K or students with weak grip strength. Works on hand strengthening, fine motor coordination, grip strength, grasp. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Therapy Basics: What do you need as a new OT and where do you get it?

The fundamentals of a school OT

November marks one full year of working as a school Occupational Therapist- Woohoo! To celebrate, I've decided to make this blog to share my thoughts, experiences, and all the things I'm learning along the way!

This first post is dedicated to all the new school OT's out there. As a new pediatric therapist, you basically have to start from scratch in terms of what items you can use for your kids in therapy. A lot of schools have designated therapy spaces with lots of supplies and games galore, but a lot of other schools may expect you to bring in your own materials and whatnot. This school year, I pretty much fully-stocked my therapy room with my own supplies. BUT, I spent less than $100 on probably everything I need for the whole school year and here’s some tricks and tips how/where! :)

Target, target, target
 Ugh. My favorite place in the world not only to find work stuff but for all the other cute things I never knew I needed. That dollar spot section in the front is GOLD. But seriously, for $1-3 dollars, there's tons of good finds. I've been able to find puzzles, lacing cards, beading activities, card games, mini erasers, sensory toys, stress balls, putty, and even a gripper! You can also get all the classic holy grail therapy games there like Uno, Spot it, Simon, Bop it, and Jenga! (My personal favorites). But seriously, the more I visit target, and its A LOT, the more I see random toys/games that are just perfect for occupational therapy. I'm convinced that Target is really sensitive to the special needs population and is making strides to mainstream sensory toys and games that all kids can benefit from! Love it! (Fun fact: For Halloween this year I actually dressed up as a target employee LOL.  Hmmm, next career choice if OT doesn't work out?)

Dollar Tree So. You'd be surprised with the things you can find at the dollar store these days. They have ALL the basics for as cheap as it can be. $1 for crayons, pencils, pens, markers, chalk boards, folders, construction paper, lined paper, clothespins. Some of my favorite therapy finds include spring open scissors (legit modified scissors for only a dollar) and jumbo plastic tongs (recently broke though... RIP). They also have great crafting supplies: pom poms, pipe cleaners, beads, popsicle sticks, glue, hole punchers, you name it. Not to mention, I decorated my whole therapy room from cute decor from the dollar store. They also have tons and tons of containers in all sizes-- This is they KEY to staying organized in my tiny OT room.

Amazon Prime Let's face it. If you have Amazon Prime, you're always looking for a excuse to use it-- Amiriiight? They have some great therapy equipment that's harder to find in mainstream stores. And compared to other online therapy equipment vendors, I'm a big fan of Amazon's low prices and fast shipping! Here are some of my favorite prime finds. Theraputty (6 pack for $16), Dressing Boards (6 piece set for $17), Fine Motor Tool Set (4 tools for $8), and my handy dandy Laminator (got mine for as low as $20).

Let me end with this— 
Sometimes, it could feel like you're spending way too much money on toys/games... which can feel especially weird as an adult buying children's toys when you have no children, LOL. But, you're basically investing in your future, your students, and your day to day satisfaction. I'm sure you already have most of the basics you already need hidden somewhere in your home. And I'm not saying you need to spend a crazy amount of money on supplies to be a good OT. But I've found that the more you keep things interesting for the kids, the more they're interested in you and working towards their goals. At the end of the day... Do OT for the kids!

Let's do this!

“Whatever you dodo it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Zones of Regulation Charts