Occupational therapy is the use of occupations for benefit on function. Occupations are activities that are chosen by clients, within a given structure, to build on or maximize a client’s set of skills in a functional area. We call this the ‘just right challenge’ to achieve positive outcomes. As an occupational therapist, it is my job to work with clients to evaluate and/or assess on-going abilities of each client, and therefore provide impactful experiences to improve skills in any such area. Each of these functional areas can be identified by the clients, or caregivers (most cases), or myself. Although there are many different areas of focus, we focus on: activities of daily living, sensory systems, physical strength and balance, gross and fine motor movement, and cognition.
An Occupational Therapist is a partner that helps clients achieve large goals by breaking them down into smaller goals, and using a mix evidence-based research, and the clients’ motivation to reach them, as engagement is always of highest priority. The methods use a variety of mediums, including adaptive equipment or techniques, environmental adaptations, exercise, or even suggesting new and creative attempts at problem solving.
Why Outdoor Occupational Therapy for my child?
I’ve chosen to practice in the outdoor environment for the many sensory, psychological and motivational benefits that children experience, naturally.
Outdoors for sensory processing
For those with sensory processing delays, this environment can be extremely welcoming or conversely overloading. Using standardized assessments such as a sensory profile, the therapist assists clients and their families to identify sensory seeking vs. sensory avoiding behaviors. Based on this, goals are set. Basic outdoor activities are offered that will appeal to the child’s inherent motivation, sensory and psychological needs. Children can choose from activities such as hiking, animal interaction/care, swinging, jumping, water-play, socialization, or simply walking barefoot in the grass. Although many activities’ purposes are two-fold, each hold appeal in novelty and uniqueness set for the individual.
Outdoors for psychological benefit
The Outdoor environment offers continuous change. These opportunities to change with the environment (adaptation) can be maximized with guidance, purpose, and clear achievement of short term goals. Self-confidence, identity through purpose, and increased quality of life are results of our outdoor occupational therapy treatment sessions. Animal-assisted therapies in this setting focus on a mindfulness-based approach that decreases stress, anxiety and depression.
Indoor Spaces and Necessity
At Sundance Therapy, as much as we love the outdoors, we do see the need for a controlled environment that can focus on sensory needs of the developmentally delayed child. Also, we have snow days!
Through partnerships with sensory gyms and traditional recreation centers, we can maximize movement therapies and meet each individuals’ sensory needs through a multitude of avenues and activities. We have been able to secure these partnerships on an hourly basis, focused on the individuals’ needs and including all equipment and assistance needed for successful and fun activities. Evaluations are sometimes best completed in these environments.
The Open Space Parks Program, in Douglas County, provide our outdoor opportunities in safe, and picturesque landscapes. Each park presents it’s own character, which offers unique responses from each of our senses. We Rock the Spectrum, Littleton, CO has provided an optimal sensory gym and the Parker Recreation Center has a fantastic rock wall and belay team!
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