The Occupational Therapy (OT) Department at Reach for the Stars Learning Center (RFTS) is rehabilitative and educational in nature. The goal is to enable our children to effectively participate in purposeful activities that are significant and meaningful in order to improve their well-being and self-confidence, enhance their quality of life and improve their skills. RFTS focuses on therapy that will allow the child to better adapt to his home environment, such as activities that teach organization and promote a readiness to learn, and techniques that reduce stress and address difficulties with transitions.
Children with autism have difficulty in processing sensory information that affects their ability to effectively participate in everyday activities such as dressing, eating, sleeping, bathing, learning and play/recreational skills. In the RFTS OT Department playful sensorymotor activities are utilized to actively engage the autistic child and improve his ability to take in and process information from multiple senses. This allows him to shape his behaviors and manage them at a foundational level so he can interact effectively in his environment. The OT sessions foster the acquisition of self-care skills, and they increase active participation in activities of daily living. The treatment intervention concentrates on improving strength, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual-perceptual and visual-motor abilities, and graphomotor, writing and typing skills. Additionally, focus is placed on enhancing body spatial awareness, motor planning, bilateral coordination, and balance. The OT staff at RFTS addresses cognitive and executive functioning skills and considers the emotional support necessary to help the children acquire problem-solving techniques, develop effective coping strategies, improve their attention and flexibility and utilize compensatory methods when necessary.
In addition to daily individual OT sessions, students participate in group or peer-involved activities, lead by by highly trained occupational therapists who target each students OT goals. The OT staff is extensively skilled in activity analysis, and they incorporate their knowledge of sensorimotor, cognitive and psychosocial components of function into effective treatment planning. The overall therapeutic intervention goals are to facilitate independence, increase acquisition of skills, improve behaviors, and make necessary environmental adaptations in activities that are challenging for children with autism.
The treatment intervention plans are individualized in both the one-to-one and group settings, and take place throughout the school environment, which includes the sensory motor gym, the classrooms and out in the community. The OT staff of RFTS utilizes their expertise and knowledge to effectively collaborate with classroom staff, other disciplines and the family, to develop an optimal treatment plan to create successful physical, psychosocial, cognitive and academic outcomes.
Some specific interventions utilized by the Occupational Therapy Department of Reach for the Stars include:
All students at RFTS follow a specific sensory diet throughout their day. Structured routines and activities (i.e. therapeutic brushing, wearing proprioceptive vests, oral motor protocols, exercising) are scheduled according to each students individual needs to help with overall regulation and maintain homeostasis in order for the students to minimize stereotypical behaviors and expand their learning and growth potential.
Therapeutic Listening is an evidence-based auditory intervention intended to support individuals who experience challenges with sensory processing dysfunction, listening, attention, and communication. Students listen to specifically recorded and enhanced music via headphones. The music is electronically modified to highlight the parts of the sound spectrum that naturally trigger attention and activate body movement. In addition to the electronic modifications, Therapeutic Listening capitalizes on the organized rhythmical sound patterns inherent in music to trigger the self-organizing capacities of the nervous system.
Sound Activated Vestibular-Visual Protocol (Astronaut Training)
Astronaut Training is a comprehensive treatment protocol that utilizes spinning and focused visual activities to provide precise input to all five vestibular receptors, along with auditory and visual input. The activities presented are fun and appealing to children helping to integrate these three sensory systems. The protocol supports and enhances the vestibular system, which helps determine and control balance and equilibrium, joining forces with auditory and visual systems to help us understand, navigate and function efficiently within the three-dimensional space.
Brain Gym, Yoga, Naval Radiation, MeMoves
These protocols are being implemented both during OT sessions as well as in the classroom to help students improve their overall body awareness and coordination of the two sides of the body. Students have a fun time engaging in these activities and they appear to have a positive regulating and calming impact as well.
Handwriting Without Tears
This protocol utilizes fun, engaging, and developmentally appropriate instructional methods to enable children to master handwriting as an automatic and comfortable skill.