Paediatric occupational therapists can make a real difference to the lives of children with special educational needs and disability, as Kristin M Krumm explains

Occupational Therapy…What is it?…Where does it take place?…And most importantly, why do we need it The American Occupational Therapy Association’s definition is, ‘The practice of occupational therapy means the therapeutic use of occupations, including everyday life activities with individuals, groups, populations, or organizations to support participation, performance, and function in roles and situations in home, school, workplace, community, and other settings.

Occupational therapy services are provided for habilitation, rehabilitation, and the promotion of health and wellness to those who have or are at risk for developing an illness, injury, disease, disorder, condition, impairment, disability, activity limitation, or participation restriction. Occupational therapy addresses the physical, cognitive, psychosocial, sensory-perceptual, and other aspects of performance in a variety of contexts and environments to support engagement in occupations that affect physical and mental health, well-being, and quality of life.’ (AOTA, Adopted 4/14/11)

As you can see, Occupational Therapy (OT) encompasses vast areas in which we work as professionals to help individuals live full, satisfying lives to reach their greatest level of independence. I specialise in paediatrics, which requires patience, knowledge of a variety of diseases/syndromes, flexibility, and among others, mutual respect for your client and his/her family.

The importance of OT in the school setting addresses the child’s role as a student in the learning environment. This is accomplished by using occupational, student-centred activities to work on performance skills such as manipulation, processing, and social interaction among many others. Technological use and adaptations have always been a focus area of Occupational Therapy intervention.

Given the increased use of assistive technology devices such as iPads and other tablets, recommendations for apps to emphasise certain skills has become an opportunity for Occupational Therapy practitioners to demonstrate and share knowledge. The movements required to activate a touchscreen can be as precise as a single tap or as broad as a whole hand swipe. Occupational Therapists are skilled in activity analysis to breakdown the activity and the movements required step by step.

We can offer suggestions on which app, after testing, may suit a particular student’s fine motor or visual needs. As an example, for those individuals who have cortical or low vision impairment, apps that have high contrast background, bright or glowing foreground colours, and auditory noises upon touch are excellent options to consider. Particular apps include iLoveFireworks, KidsDoodle, Beautiful Bubbles, and Finger Paint With Sounds.

Occupational Therapy practitioners’ knowledge traverses across the lifespan. This is but a small glimpse into one subset of paediatrics in the school system. Early recognition and awareness leads to health promotion activities. Newer areas of practice focus on OT’s role in preventing bullying, childhood obesity, transitioning of older youths and Response to Intervention (RTI). The month of April is recognised as National OT month in the USA. AOTA held its 95th Annual Conference and Expo 16-19 April in Nashville, TN. You can find out more here and via the hashtag #AOTA15

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About Contributors

Kristin M Krumm has been an occupational therapist in pediatrics at Archbishop Damiano School in New Jersey, USA, for over 15 years. She is involved in iPad grant writing and assists families with training and iPad setup. She has presented at ASAH and at Holy Family University, Pennsylvania.

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