Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Elevator Talk

I'm trying to think of ways to explain different aspects of working as OTs in the schools.  This is my "too long" version of how OTs analyze school tasks and help parents and school staff figure out how to help the students.  Yes, it definitely takes over 30 seconds to say.  I need help.

In schools, the occupational therapist can assist the classroom teacher and family in adapting a task so that the student can experience success. This usually means first examining the steps to an activity to find out what is preventing the student from independently performing the task.

For example, what steps in tying shoes are causing the student difficulty? Can the student cross the laces easily? Do they become confused when holding the first loop and then trying to make the second loop? If they are having difficulty, is it due to a problem with fine motor coordination? If so, the student may need to learn an adapted method of doing the task (“bunny ears” method of tying) or perhaps use adaptive materials (elastic laces or Velcro straps.) If the difficulty doesn’t seem to be due to physical reasons, then the student may need extra practice with the different steps of shoe tying several times a day at home and also at school during routine opportunities.

Once the student has been observed and the steps of the task have been examined, the classroom teacher and family will have a better idea of how to present activities to the student, or ways to modify activities, so that the student can practice their skills more effectively on an everyday basis at home and at school. Does the student require a red dot on the inside of her right shoe, to cue her into putting the correct shoe on the correct foot? Perhaps the student would benefit from using laces that are red on the left side and blue on the right in order to more easily understand that he needs to create two separate loops during the process?

As we all realize, the most important component of learning and refining new skills is practice, practice, practice. When it is a complex skill, such as shoe tying or handwriting, the steps must be broken down into little bits and mastering each little bit will require practice, practice, practice at home and also at school.

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