Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The little things DO matter

At the Autism West AOTA Specialty Conference, there was a wonderful panel of parents and individuals with autism spectrum disorders who shared their experiences, including their experiences with occupational therapy. Included in this panel was a mother and her 19 year old daughter who has Asperger's. This mother shared that her daughter was having difficulty washing her hair, because she didn't fully understand where to rub the shampoo without being able to see her head. Her daughter's occupational therapist recently suggested that she use a shower mirror to provide a visual while washing her hair. Her mother immediately ordered a shower mirror and her daughter can now shower independently! It's amazing how a seemingly simple adaptation can be life changing to the families that we work with. This mother was incredibly grateful for the suggestion.

This story reminded me of the time I was working with a very bright child (6 or 7 years old) who was sensory seeking and struggled with sitting to attend to his schoolwork. At the end of one session, I gave his mother a piece of Theraband to take home to tie around the legs of her son's chair during homework time. I mentioned that she could try it for mealtime as well. She came back the following week, thrilled with the results. She informed me that she and her family are now able to eat meals together as a family, because with the added sensory input that the Theraband provided, her son could now sit through an entire meal. Another life changing adaptation!

As occupational therapists, we are skilled at adapting and modifying the environment to allow for full participation in meaningful daily activities (occupations!). To all of my fellow OTs out there, keep up the good work!

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