So here I am, a Licensed Speech and Language Pathologist discussing Occupational Therapy month. Maybe you are thinking, “what does she know?”. Well I have over 35 years of experience working primarily in the field of Early Intervention and private clinics in a trans-disciplinary setting. I have worked alongside some truly knowledgeable and talented O.T.s and learned how to incorporate both disciplines to address goals using multiple strategies. Occupational therapy targets several areas including feeding, self care skills, sensory integration, self regulation, perceptual motor and fine motor skills. Naturally they all overlap speech and language skills and can be incorporated into both sets of goals.
Here’s an example: The SLP is working on receptive and expressive vocabulary, following directions and comprehension of linguistic concepts. The OT is working on pre-writing or writing skills, cutting with scissors, copying designs, and visual perceptual skills. The choices of activities are endless. Use pictures or concrete objects to represent familiar items, position them in various places around the room. Use tongs to pick them up, tape to different locations on worksheets, choose and identify crayons by color, position paper in a vertical position for ideal pre-writing wrist position, break the crayons in half to improve grasp, copy lines or simply draw your own rendition of chosen word or picture and always make sure the child’s feet are touching the floor while seated. Feeling grounded is essential especially while eating !!!!!!!!! ( remember this if you visit day cares or preschools)
For those on the spectrum, it is critically important to start sessions with sensory integration activities such as swinging, jumping on trampolines, climbing structures, ball pit, the squeeze machine or use of scooter boards. It greatly helps them to regulate and focus for therapy activities and can incorporate speech and language strategies as well.
If you are working in a gross motor environment to address self regulation such as a swing or tunnel, use clothespins to hang pictures in different places out of child’s reach or place objects around the child on the floor to retrieve.
For pretend play, there is nothing more fun than dressing up in different costumes. Use larger including pants,belts,buttons ,dresses, shoes, socks and hats to encourage self care and pretend play skills. Don’t forget the props for additional pretend and fine motor play!! Including a stethoscope, cash register, cutting and sorting food items, taking orders, making signs... ) Kitchen, restaurant, doctor and haircuts, school, food shopping, bus/car rides all stimulate language and social interaction.
Let’s say the child is motivated by beads. Use different colors, shapes, textures, sizes and categories and go from there. In between turns, target a goal such as pointing to or naming a picture. For OT’s this targets use of two hands and visual-perceptual skills.
I forgot to include one of my favorite activities which address both areas. Piggy Banks and Mr. Potato Head!! Put pictures or stickers(the kids can do the peeling and sticking) on bottle caps, old checkers and position the “bank” in different directions. Horizontal is always easiest but firmly hold the “bank” and move to vertical to encourage wrist rotation. Utilize Mr. P for comprehension of body parts, syntactic structures , spatial awareness, humor (do not be strict with correct placement of pieces), object use, pretend play, following directions, interaction and vocabulary
For sensory kiddos, use moon sand, beans, rice, whipped cream, play-doh or whatever is your choice. Hide familiar objects such as cars, spoons, molds etc… to continue work on language. Make sure you don’t overstimulate and give too much ,they will let you know when they want more and make sure they are using joint attention and good eye contact. Wait them out if they really like it.
As always Do/Try not to anticipate their needs!!!!!
For feeding this is a different area for many reasons. You will need a thorough evaluation to get the information you need. Observe the child in the presence of different foods. Look at responses to color, texture, amount, proximity, smell and taste. Work closely with an OT to optimize success and make sure the parents are providing carryover. IT WILL NOT WORK if they are not in agreement. If possible, talk about nutrition, allergies, family history and brain development especially for adolescents.
As for all areas I support the American Academy of
Pediatrics in regard to recommended screen time based on child’s age. Less is best. There are so many other activities to choose from. I don’t use a tablet or phone for treatment as my ultimate goal is social and meaningful communication unless there is a medical or communicative need for augmentative devices. I see way too many parents more invested in their phones than listening to their child. Kids really need to know they are more important than whose call Mom missed, sales, social events or looking at pictures instead of their children.
I always wish I had a dual degree as I believe these two areas inter-lap so much. I have a million more ideas and would love to keep sharing.
Keep on keeping in touch - Thanks, Amy
Author: Amy Bond MS,CCC/SLP,CEIS