At Skills for Kids we provide occupational therapy and speech language pathology intervention for children of all ages, from infants through to high school. Our intervention is targeted to children who have a difficulty with participation either at home, preschool or school. These children may have specific disabilities and disorders such as learning difficulty, developmental delay, intellectual impairment, dyspraxia, autism spectrum disorder, asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit disorder and sensory processing disorder – or they may be children who do not have any kind of label. They are simply having a difficulty making a ‘just right fit’ with the expectations or demands of home and school. Our goal is to increase children’s independent participation in different parts of their lives.
Therapists begin work with a child by doing an assessment either short or comprehensive depending on the needs of the child and the choice of the family. The purpose of this assessment is to identify strengths and difficulties and to determine a starting point for intervention.
During intervention, therapists work with your child on a weekly or fortnightly basis for half hour or hour sessions, either at the clinic or at your child’s school. Therapists can provide intervention in the real world environment of preschools and schools, if there are enough children at any one preschool or school receiving therapy. Therapists maintain regular communication between parents, teacher and other relevant health professionals so that we are all working in the same direction together with your child.
Occupational therapy intervention addresses key ‘doing’ SKILLS which a child is having difficulty with such as:
- Fine motor (puzzles, construction activities, colouring, drawing, cutting, handwriting legibility and speed, typing skills) e.g. Ben learning how to write neatly so that his teacher can read his amazing stories.
- Written expression (thinking up and organising ideas on paper with structure and coherence, essay writing) e.g. Sandra learning how to organise her essay writing so that her good ideas don’t end up going round and round in circles.
- Gross motor (ball skills, skipping, jumping) e.g. Thomas learning how to catch a ball so that he can play cricket with the other neighbourhood kids in his backyard.
- Self care (dressing, eating, hygiene, toileting) e.g. Jenny learning how to do up her own shoelaces so that she doesn’t need help when she goes to the school swimming carnival.
- Play (imaginative play, purposeful, structured and sequenced play) e.g. James learning how to play imaginatively with different objects and not just lining them up in a row.
- Social (friendship, dealing with feelings) e.g. Anna learning how to make friends and how to deal appropriately with her feelings in the playground.
Occupational therapy intervention also addresses different UNDERLYING ABILITIES which may be causing problems for these skills. Underlying abilities may be:
- Mechanical difficulties (posture, seating, muscle tone and pencil grip) e.g. Timothy learning how to develop a pinch grip so that he can hold his pencil with control for drawing a picture of his dad.
- Sensory abilities (coordination, sensory processing, body awareness, balance, motor planning) e.g. Matthew learning how to coordinate the left and right side of his body in a smooth and flowing way so that he can swim in his friend’s pool.
- Cognitive abilities (attention, memory, organisation and planning) e.g. Steven learning how to problem solve – think up strategies and choose the best strategy instead of impulsively reacting to a situation.
- Personal abilities (motivation, confidence, enjoyment and perseverance) e.g. Jonathan learning how to have the confidence to join in and have fun with the rest of the kids.
Occupational therapy at Skills for Kids uses 3 main strategies for intervention:
- Skills mastery: we teach children the step by step process for learning skills – one step at a time.
- Information processing: we teach children how to use their thinking for doing.
- Sensory processing: we teach children how to organise sensory input from their body and their environment for use.
Speech language pathology
Speech language pathology intervention helps children whose communication is affected by articulation, language, voice or swallowing difficulties.
Speech language pathology assessment and intervention encompasses all aspects of communication including speech, language, writing, reading, signs, symbols and gestures. Speech language pathologists also work with people who have difficulties swallowing food and drink.
Being able to communicate effectively is something most Australians take for granted. Few of us understand what communication is, or have ever imagined what it would be like not to communicate effectively.
There are six areas of communication:
- Speech – the physical production of sounds
- Language – understanding verbal language: what words mean, putting sentences together, communicating clearly either verbally or in writing
- Reading – understanding written language
- Pragmatics – the social conventions for how we interact with each other
- Fluency – the smooth rhythm and pattern of talking
- Voice – the production of sound by vibrating the vocal cords.
Communication includes being understood as well as understanding others, either in speaking and listening, or in reading and writing.
Children who experience difficulties in the area of literacy often have an underlying language problem. A language disorder will have a direct impact on learning, including academic learning. Speech language pathology intervention aims to remediate the underlying language problem therefore allowing a child to learn to read and write.
Problems of speech can include difficulty producing speech sounds in words and sentences or the total inability to make the mouth movements required to say words.
Problems of language can include poor vocabulary skills, the inability to sequence words and sentences logically together to make meaningful conversation or the inability to understand and follow instructions.
Problems in pragmatics can include poor use of eye contact, not knowing how to break into a conversation, or using an inappropriately friendly voice with strangers.
Fluency problems can be seen in the three year old who has a mild stutter and the adolescent who does not speak in class because of a severe stutter.
Voice problems can include a harsh, raspy voice due to vocal nodules in a child or a complete loss of voice due to voice strain in a singer.