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Occupational Therapy Awareness Amid Stay at Home Guidelines

During Occupational Therapy Awareness Month, therapists are asking “what does Occupational Therapy look like amid coronavirus and stay at home guidelines?”

“The philosophy of Occupational Therapy focuses on improving performance in all areas of occupation to facilitate health and promote growth through change &/or adaptation.  The ultimate goal is the achievement of health, well-being and participation in life through engagement in occupation.”  (AOTA 2014).

“Occupational Therapy has a fundamental belief that a healthy lifestyle reflects the balance between work, play/leisure, self-care and rest activities.”  (Journal of OT in Mental Health, Crist et al, Sept. 25, 2008).

A return to a balance in daily occupations can be achieved with Occupational Therapy through therapeutic exercise, therapeutic activities, activity modification and adaptation,  when one is affected by undue stress, illness or injury, and by applying a similar philosophy in one’s own self care practices.

During this pandemic, how are we occupying our time?  Everyone is currently affected by a significant amount of change, which requires the ability to adapt in a positive manner to maintain our own optimal health.  This is a good time to take stock of our physical, mental, spiritual, as well as financial health.  We have had to adapt the way that we are performing our daily routines.  And by taking good care of ourselves, we are then able to engage with compassion toward others who need it…if you have 20 rolls of toilet paper and your neighbor only has 2 rolls left…kindly share!

April is Occupational Therapy Awareness Month.  Occupational Therapy problem solves to help people adapt to change.  Currently, everyone’s lives are disrupted in one way or another and all are forced to adapt to the changes.  By now, most of us have found ways to adapt and fill the increased hours spent at home, or you may be running out of ideas.  There are many resources available online to combat the anxiety, depression, boredom, and the “couch potato” syndrome that is being experienced related to the Stay at Home guidelines.

The following are some resources and strategies to help adapt and remain positively engaged while staying at home:

  • The W.H.O is having a Health at Home Challenge on Twitter, go to Twitter.com/WHO/Status#HealthyatHome.
  • Tao-Well.com – Tai chi & Qigong fit videos, focus on mindfulness, reducing stress, while promoting strength, flexibility and balance.
  • Down Dog Yoga App – health care providers can get free access to their apps through July 1st.
  • Woebot – free app to promote positive mental health.
  • NHS.uk – sofa workout, as well as many other types of exercise videos.
  • Spotify” app – has a variety of uplifting song playlists as well as podcasts.
  • ”themodernproper” on Instagram – therapeutic and creative cooking ideas. A new recipe is shared daily on Instagram

Rather than binging on TV shows, we find ourselves coming up with other activities to occupy our time.  Utilizing social media and video games, assembling puzzles, playing games, yard work, walking, biking, running, cooking, baking, arts & crafts, board games and cards have become increasingly popular, and quality time with family has become more important. Trying to maintain a sense of humor at this time, will also help to combat anxiety and depression.  YouTube videos are a great source of humor.  Even though at times it may seem like too much togetherness at home, we should cherish every minute that we have with our loved ones.

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

Contributed by Erin Winters, OTR/L, PTA

Erin Winters, OTR/L, PTA

Erin is an Occupational Therapist with Tx:Team at Putnam County Hospital.  She is a graduate of the Indiana University Occupational Therapy Program.  Erin has extensive experience in the treatment of adults with a variety of diagnoses from neurological, orthopedics of the upper extremity and hand, as well as chronic or acute conditions.

Is Love an Open or Closed Door for Children with Autism?

Leslie Crawford is an Occupational Therapist with Tx:Team treating Pediatric patients in Frederick, Maryland.

 

If you are a parent of a school aged child, or have recently viewed YouTube’s top viral videos of 2014, you may have already heard Disney’s hit song “Love Is An Open Door,” from the PG rated flick Frozen.  However, with the warm sun and a plethora of outdoor activities in mid summer, the only thing with icicles in July may be your own AC unit, on the brink!

With the enticing outdoor activities summer offers and the rise of children away from their normal routines of school, it is important to raise awareness regarding wandering and elopement of children with Autism and take a minute to second guess that “open door.”  Children with Autism, or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are often known to wander away from safe places and familiar environments resulting in increased danger and sometimes tragedy.  Particularly in the summertime, wandering behaviors contribute to increased risks of drowning and emergency medical service calls.  Therefore, preparedness by both parents, the community and first responders is essential.

Try “walking a mile”in the shoes of a child with ASD.  If an adult were to actually wear a child’s size 4 shoe all day, they would most likely have throbbing feet by their workday’s end!  I know I would!  Think of this throbbing as the continued discomfort and hypersensitivity that a child with Autism experiences on a daily basis.  Not only may children with Autism be hypersensitive to tight shoes, but to clothing in general with itchy tags around their collars, environmental temperatures, lights, sounds and vestibular motion.

While sensory processing in the brain is quite complex and can vary from person to person, we can all agree that when we are overwhelmed by a specific sensation, it is hard to filter out the extraneous input and attend to the task at hand. If you can’t relate to this experience, I challenge you to go to your local convenience store and buy a bag of “Pop-Rocks”or sour “Warheads” candy.  Next, open the candy and place some in your month.  Now, simultaneously begin a crossword puzzle.  How long will it take you to complete this task?  Are you having difficulty?  As I place candy in my own mouth while typing this blog, my mind is concentrated on the explosion of candy in my mouth: at my left cheek, now gums, now right cheek!

To promote Autism awareness in your community, help others to identify characteristics and potential behaviors a child with ASD may demonstrate.  Aforementioned, try the simulation above with random community members to help them understand sensory integration difficulties.  Further educate the community on communication difficulties children with Autism may experience, such as their ability to accurately interpret help, or those able to help them, their ability to identify danger, and their need for extra sensory, gestural and communication processing time.  With more knowledge regarding pervasive developmental disorders, the easier and safer it will be for all involved to respond to a situation regarding wondering or elopement.  Additionally, while some behaviors may prove to be challenging during a crisis situation, remind members of the community and first responders that certain behaviors may be self-soothing to the individual, and halting this behavior may exacerbate stress and increase the present danger to a child with Autism.

If your child has ASD, I encourage you to establish a plan and be proactive in anticipation of wandering and elopement.  Alert neighbors and your local EMS squad of you child’s diagnosis, as well as provide EMS with contact information of family members to be reached in case of emergency.  Know your neighborhood and preferred places your child may like to visit.  Occupational therapists can assist children and a family establish sensory diets and strategies to manage challenging behaviors, as well as their overall health, wellness and functional independence.  Many resources are available to practitioners and parents to help plan for wandering and elopement, such as The Big Red Toolkits for caregivers, clinicians and first responders.  This resource, developed by the Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response Education team, helps establish safe occupational engagement in the community.  The Big Red Toolkits are available online and contain educational materials, caregiver resources, tip-sheets, social stories to help child habituate to common events.

With the appeal of water in community pools, lakes and rivers, the risk of drowning associated with elopement and wandering is highly prevalent.  Ask your community pool about sensory supported swimming classes lead by an Occupational Therapist, who can provide aquatic training techniques to instructors to interact and teach children with ASD.

In order to make our community like Disneys, “Magic Kingdom”, we must increase awareness and educate those around us of the Autism population’s needs.