April is Occupational Therapy Month! It’s a great time to celebrate our OT team, and the successes of our clients working and playing hard in OT. ---
Occupational therapists help people of all ages live life to its fullest!
Here at CI, we use evidence-based treatments, specific to each kiddo and their family. Fun is the most evident aspect of activities as we improve our kiddos’ ability to participate in their “occupations” such as play, learning, self-care, and social interactions.
OT looks especially playful when working with our younger clients. As our clients age and move toward adolescence, their occupations, or meaningful activities, change and treatment sessions look a little different. Playfulness is just as important, but it is less about toys and squeals of joy and more about specific interests and more subtle expressions of joy.
One of my favorite age groups to work with are “tweens,” or those aged 10-13, who are not quite teens, but they no longer consider themselves children. Social dynamics in this age group become more complicated, while physical changes become more personal. It is a time of intense emotions, but the ability to manage strong feelings is still emerging. There can be a lot of conflict—internally, at home, and at school. But there is also a huge growth in the ability to use humor, think more abstractly, and experience compassion. Tweens are working to understand the world on a larger scale and beginning to explore how they fit in.
As the social dynamics become more nuanced, delays in social skills development become more apparent to individuals and their peers. This often leads to decreased confidence and increased frustration. The universally difficult tween years are even more challenging for people who struggle to recognize social cues, understand abstract language, or regulate their bodies and emotions.
Occupational therapy is a great resource to build skills to navigate these challenges. We help our kiddos identify body cues and emotions in their early stages, so strategies can be used to stay healthy and safe. We teach kiddos and their adults to make environmental modifications and use tools that help manage strong emotions and reactions. Sometimes a quiet space is helpful, or listening to music, or being in nature.
Mindfulness activities such as deep breathing, body scan meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation are more helpful ways that tweens can work on improving their ability to manage difficult situations and emotions. Occupational therapy also works on breaking down tasks and improving organization, helping the tweens work towards the independence they are looking for.
Occupational therapists work collaboratively with other providers, school personnel, and families, while encouraging self-advocacy of tweens to use the skills and strategies learned. It’s a great way to participate in their occupation of moving toward independence. Let’s celebrate their hard work and the role of occupational therapy! Happy OT month!
Jodi Garvin, COTA/L