We all have our own beliefs, motivators, learning styles, strengths/resilience and vulnerabilities. These can all impact on participation and wellbeing.
Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. What motivates them to persevere with an activity when it is challenging is different for each individual. For most children play is motivating and occupational therapists use play activities to assess and treat children.
Goal setting is an important part of an Occupational Therapists’ role. Occupational Therapists who work with children and young people need to take into consideration the child/young person’s priorities and motivators as well as those of their family and the other professionals who make up the team around the child.
Goal setting also helps us to identify when therapy should end and demonstrates the unique contribution occupational therapists can offer your child.
Goal setting can help you to empower your child/young person to make changes in their life.
Talking about what is important to you both and agreeing on a shared goal ensures you are both motivated to put in the work required to make the changes needed.
You can use reward charts and keep videos and photos of before and after working on the goal to keep your child motivated. Tell other adults who your child respects so that they can support you both.
No one will ever learn any new skills if they do not participate and practice. Sometimes you need to have a go and make mistakes so that you can learn. Occupational therapists support allowing children/young people to participate in everyday activities from an early age to give them the best chance of reaching their potential and becoming independent adults.
Some children/young people will be dependent on others for some or all of their occupations and practice will not help them to develop skills. Participation is also important for these children/young people as being involved in their own care to best of their abilities can have a huge impact on their well-being.
There are a number of ways that you can think about making changes to the occupation or task. Occupational therapists call these changes grading and activity analysis.
Think about when you are trying to learn a new skill. If the task is too easy it doesn’t pose a challenge and you get bored quickly. If the task is too challenging then you become frustrated and may give up.
The same is true for children. We need to give each child the ‘just right’ challenge, not too easy or too hard. Both the principles below can help you to get the challenge ‘just right’ for your child. You can also make the activity easier or harder. Occupational therapists call this grading.
When teaching your child a new skill (e.g. using a fork, tying their laces, making a cup of tea, skipping with a rope, using scissors etc.) it helps to break the activity down into manageable chunks. You can then teach one chunk at a time, make up a visual aid using photographs or symbols or make a sequence checklist depending on what suits your child, or use adaptive equipment to help with a specific step. You can also look at each of the steps in turn to identify where things are going wrong for your child/young person.
Think about making a cup of tea, this activity can be broken down into lots of different steps. The steps may vary given the environment, what order you like to do things in (milk first or last?) but generally they remain the same. Once you have learned the key components of a task you then learn how to do the task in different environments.
Let’s break making a cup of tea down into steps.
Here are some examples of how you can use these steps to help your child to learn a new skills.
Use photos or symbols to aid learning.
Use checklists as reminders of the sequence of steps.
These could be written lists with boxes to tick when steps are completed. Or you could combine the checklist with photos or symbols.
Focus on teaching one step at a time.
Use adaptive/alternative equipment for the different steps.
In the making tea example you could use:
The environment can impact on participation and well-being. To support participation in occupation we can make changes to the environment. We can think of the environment in a variety of ways:
Occupational Therapists are skilled in looking at the physical environment and suggesting changes which can improve participation and well-being.
We can assess the home environment and make recommendations in relation to adaptive equipment which may be beneficial. We might suggest that your child/young person completes a task in a different room or position.
The sensory environment can impact on a child/young person's participation and well-being.
Occupational Therapists can help you think about the sensory environment in relation to activities of daily living and make some suggestions about how you can modify the sensory environment to help your child to participate more.
Occupational Therapists think about the social and cultural environment which children are part of and how these environments may be helping them to succeed. An Occupational Therapist will make sure that any recommendations are relevant to the child and those around them.