October 27th is World Occupational Therapy Day
By: Victoria Wood, OTR/L
To celebrate World Occupational Therapy Day, a definition is in order. When the word “occupation” is mentioned, people commonly think about jobs. However, the meaning of occupation is: any activity in which a person is engaged.
A person’s occupation could be play, self-care, working, socializing, running, crafts, building, or any other activity done throughout the day. Thus, occupational therapy (OT) is the profession of helping people with their daily occupation or activities. OT’s help people of all ages become more independent and functional.
As a long time pediatric occupational therapist, I have seen a shift in our roles during the past 20 years. In the 90’s, pediatric OT did more rehabilitation. Brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorder, broken bones, hand injuries, low tone, genetic abnormalities, and birth defects were the types of conditions treated.
Today, with the diagnosis of Autism almost at epidemic proportions, a good amount of therapy is focused on this spectrum disorder, attention deficits, as well as sensory processing disorders.
Why the rise in cases of these diagnoses? There are theories, but no definite answers yet. Chemicals, processed foods, genetics, parenting, and toxins play a large part.
I feel the biggest factor impacting young people is ENVIRONMENT. Not only the toxins in our environment and all of the processed or genetically modified foods, but a lack of being out in our environment. Sunshine, heavy work, fresh air, and play are missing from many modern children’s lives.
Do you want to know why there are zero, or very few cases of autism in the Amish community? Environment. Children in this lifestyle do heavy work. They walk instead of driving everywhere. They do chores, play outside, run, read, work together, eat home cooked natural foods, chat with friends, use their minds for creativity and imagination, and explore their environment. Notice the words, watch television, text, video games, Snapchat, Facebook, Minecraft, and Fortnite were not mentioned in the above activity list? This is because the Amish generally live a life free of the intrusion of electronics.
There are new diagnoses being coined, such as virtual autism and gaming addiction affecting young people. I have seen children in our clinic who want to die at age five, or tried to stab their mother with a knife, because they saw it in a video game and do not understand the consequences of their actions. Social skills are dwindling due to the lack of face-to-face interaction. Children feel as if they are interacting when they are screaming into their headsets over the internet, or texting a friend. This cannot replace real interaction. Technology has its place in limited doses, with correct supervision.
Without the correct environmental stimulation, the body is seeking or avoiding sensory input. This leads to increased behavioral/discipline problems, acting out, lack of focus/memory, pickiness, processing delays, and learning difficulties to name a few of the symptoms therapists are seeing. How can a child get the heavy work he needs from walking 10 feet to the bus stop, a 20 minute recess, lack of chores, no imaginative play, disinterest in crafts or reading, and being glued to the screen half of the day? He can’t, so the body over reacts. The result? Sensory processing disorders.
If you have a child struggling, are working with difficult children, or you yourself find you are “too sensitive,” my Summit class Practical Treatment Strategies for Children with Sensory Processing Disorders, gives an in depth look at sensory processing disorder. I discuss the theories behind this condition, what it feels like to have sensory processing disorder, how to understand and talk about sensory issues, treating/working with children effectively, as well as dealing with the difficult behaviors that come about as a result of difficulty processing sensory input.
I am passionate about helping children and their caregivers to overcome or deal with their sensory issues, so learning and interacting with their environment will be easier. This class has helped numerous teachers go back to their classrooms with a fresh perspective and more confidence.
I have enjoyed teaching so much, I am taking it one step further. I just started the website: www.thesensoryqueen.com This website will serve as a platform for my upcoming book, access to my blog, a future subscription service, and links to great products I recommend.
I want to be able to educate as many people that children with sensory processing disorders are not naughty, teenagers are more than just weird, and adults are not just too sensitive. They are all just trying their best to survive in this crazy world.
About Victoria Wood, OTR
Pediatric occupational therapist since 1992. Mother of two 20 something daughters. One fabulous therapy dog. Recently married to the most amazing man, who totally gets my sensoryisms.