When my son Tanner began receiving occupational therapy and other therapy services through Children’s Care Hospital & School at just twelve months old, he was struggling with developmental delays, seizures, and a growing oral aversion. His inability to consume adequate nutrition orally eventually resulted in a diagnosis of failure to thrive. Tanner also showed many signs and characteristics of autism.
That was two years ago. Now Tanner is nearly four years old and many, many gains have been made, both due to medical interventions that we have implemented as well as the result of hours and hours of working with wonderful therapists like his occupational therapists from the Children’s Care Hospital & School Outreach Program and the Children’s Care Hospital & School Rehabilitation Center.
When Tanner was in the Birth to Three Program, his therapists came into our home to work with Tanner. They brought all kinds of wonderful toys and resources to help him learn to play, talk, crawl, walk and eat. Since he’s three now, they work with him in his preschool classroom. Tanner’s occupational therapists attend seminars to learn new techniques and tricks for teaching Tanner. They teach us as Tanner’s parents what we can be doing with him throughout the week to apply what they are teaching him during therapy, and they try to make that as fun and easy to incorporate into our lives as possible. And, of course, all of the therapists are always willing to just be someone our family can turn to for emotional support now and then. They really become a part of our family.
When we were first told that Tanner needed occupational therapy we were confused because at one year old, he certainly didn’t have an “occupation!” It was then explained to us that an occupational therapist (OT) would help Tanner learn the skills for his occupation of just day-to-day living. That made sense! The OT would help Tanner learn to play and interact with things by bringing out different toys and helping him to reach out and interact with and activate them. The occupational therapists would help him be able to tolerate different textures in his environment by introducing him to various items like felt, crinkly paper and even a bag of rice! Our occupational therapists even worked cooperatively with speech therapists and ABA therapists to help Tanner learn skill necessary for eating and drinking by mouth.
With the help of many terrific occupational therapists and other therapists, Tanner is now able to sit up and play with toys. He will reach out and grab at the pages of books when we read to him. He is able to hold a spoon and will accept food into his mouth, finally! He is learning to hold and drink from a sippy cup. He’s even figured out how to pull Mommy’s hair, which is wonderful albeit sometimes a little painful!
Because of the autistic characteristics Tanner possesses, he tends to absorb things taught in therapy sessions well when they are presented repetitively, and he receives many hours of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). Our occupational therapists and ABA therapists have worked cooperatively to incorporate the fine motor skill goals of occupational therapy into the framework of the ABA style of learning for Tanner. Further collaboration between OT and speech has helped with feeding issues, and partnership of the occupational therapist with the vision therapist from the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired was also very effective. We could not be more pleased with how all of his therapies, and therapists, work together to teach Tanner how to do things most kids just naturally learn to do. We have been very blessed!
Occupational therapy, physical therapy, ABA therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, feeding therapy, and therapy with an early childhood special educator has made HUGE differences in the life of our child as well as our family. Directly as a result of therapy, Tanner is a happier little boy. He is able to sit up, to interact with toys and others, to make better eye contact and visually track things more consistently. He knows how to give us hugs now! We look forward to seeing more and more exciting, life-changing milestones reached thanks to the wonderful help of the occupational therapists at Children’s Care!