Sunday, July 18, 2010

Occupational Therapy

I remember the advice of a dear friend to take care of my health because our boys need us and we can't afford to be ill. That is very true actually. My hubby and I must take care of our health so that we are healthy and not be a burden to others. Furthermore, if we are healthy, we can better take care of our Rayyan. With that in mind, I went for a jog this morning (been a long, long time since I exercised!). I felt very good indeed after the jog and I am more determined now to take care of my diet and exercise regularly :)

Anyway, as I was jogging I thought about the conversation I had with Rayyan's occupational therapist last week. Actually, all this while, I thought that speech therapy is more important for Rayyan. Since he can't talk, wouldn't speech therapy be more useful? Furthermore, I have always thought that occupational therapy is about motor skills, about being more active, about jumping and going through different obstacles. And I thought that since Rayyan is already very active, occupational therapy is not so important for him... but boy, was I wrong! I learnt that occupational therapy is so much more...

An occupational therapist works with clients to help them achieve fulfilling and satisfying lives through the use of various interventions and purposeful activities. They work to achieve functional outcomes which promote health, prevent disability or restore the highest possible level of independence. In other words, these therapists help people to improve their abilities to perform tasks in their daily living or working environment. The therapists not only help to improve motor functions but also reasoning skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, coordination, sequencing, etc.

In occupational therapy, sensory integration is very important. Sensory integration is actually a neurological process that organises sensation from one's own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively within the environment. The seven sensory domains include:

1) Tactile System
2) Proprioception System
3) Vestibular System
4) Olfactory System
5) Gustatory System
6) Vision System
7) Auditory System

I shall not go into details each of the domain but each one is important. Most ASD kids need sensory integration to improve on their skills and behaviour. For example, Rayyan is sensitive to certain touch, he can't stand it when he has some unfamiliar texture on his foot. He will actually throw his shoe off if there's anything on his foot and will not move till we clean both the shoe and his foot. He doesn't like to walk on grass too.

When it comes to auditory, he is sensitive to certain music. Actually, till now, we can't figure out what kind of music he doesn't like because he may like this particular song one day and detest it the next day! He will actually close his ears and cry when certain songs are played. Apart from that, we are still very concerned with his stimmings. He still jumps and flaps his arms a lot. He will also place his fingers near his face and move them close to his face.

In addition, he also likes to touch ears. Luckily he doesn't touch strangers' ears but likes to touch our ears, grinding his teeth at the same time. That is another area of concern, he likes to grind his teeth. And when it comes to learning and meaningful play, he is usually not focused and has very short attention span. He will take a toy, play with it for a few seconds and move on to another one!

But I have learnt that all this can be helped with sensory integration. To put it simply, sensory integration is like the foundation. Once we work on the seven domains and he is strong in all seven domains, the rest will automatically improve. We will see less stimming, he will be more focused and ultimately become a better learner and a more independent individual.

So voila! Occupational therapy (focusing on sensory integration) is indeed very important. I am appalled at my lack of knowledge in this. I should have tried my best to find out more earlier or do more reading in this area. I have been told before to work on his sensory deficiency like making him touch different textures but I didn't know the reason for doing so and wasn't too keen in doing those activities.

But better late than never! Now, I will try my best to do more activities that will improve on those seven domains. Hopefully we will see more improvement in our boy after doing more sensory integration activities.