Occupational Therapy

What is an occupational therapist?
Occupational therapists are licensed rehabilitation care professionals who work to restore or improve physical abilities, promote behavioral changes, adapt surroundings, and teach new skills. Pediatric Occupational Therapists are specialists trained in the areas of learning and developmental disabilities, and in physical, emotional, and mental impairments.  The goal is to help individuals with special needs to achieve greater independence and enhance the quality of their lives. Occupational therapists provide these services on the referral or prescription of a physician.

Our occupational therapists are registered and licensed and have graduated from universities accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), licensed by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) and by the Board of Occupational Therapy in the State of Indiana.

What can I expect to happen during a session with an occupational therapy practitioner?
If an occupational therapy evaluation indicates that occupational therapy is needed, the occupational therapist will design a program of activities to improve:

  • strength and endurance
  • balance and coordination
  • mobility
  • hand function
  • judgement and problem-solving abilities in daily life
  • self-care skills

Sensory Processing Disorder

What is sensory integration? What does the term mean?
The term 'Sensory Integration" is be used to reflect the theory developed by A. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist, as well as for the intervention strategy that was based on that original theory.

Sensory Integration is used to describe certain processes that go on in our brain, allowing us to make sense of the information we get from our environment and act on it. The term refers to the process by which the brain interprets and organizes various sensory experiences including sight, sound, smell, touch, movement, body awareness, and the pull of gravity.

Sensory integration is a normal phenomenon of central nervous system functioning and provides a foundation for more complex learning and behavior. For some individuals sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. Sensory integration dysfunction can result in motor development difficulties, learning difficulties, or behavioral concerns. 

How do I know if my child has a sensory integration disorder?
As efficient organization of sensory information provides the foundation for the development of functional skills, there can be many potential outcomes that might cause a parent concern.

A disruption in sensory processing can result in sensory defensiveness (sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behaviors), problems in self-regulation (activity levels too high or too low, not matched for the task at hand), and difficulties with praxis (the ability to conceive, organize and execute skills of all kinds). Disruptions in processing sensory information can interfere with self-care skills, language skills, motor skills, academic skills, and social/emotional skills.

Some specific concerns might be:

  • Takes a long time to learn a new task/skill
  • Seems clumsy, has too many accidents
  • Not keeping up with peers
  • Presents as a behavior problem at school
  • Has trouble with handwriting
  • Demonstrates unpredictable behavior in social situations, especially new or highly stimulating ones
  • Acts restless/fussy when held
  • Displays short attention span
  • Seems overly dependent on routine or schedules and/or easily upset with minor changes
  • Acts impulsively or explosively
  • Angers easily or frequently accused of of fighting, acting out or "bullying" others
  • Appears overly colicky or fussy
  • Exhibits "picky" eating behavior

What should I do if I suspect that my child has this difficulty?
If a child is suspected of having a sensory integrative disorder, an evaluation is in order. An evaluation usually consists of standardized testing (when possible), a structured observation of play and responses to sensory input, and an interview with the parent or adult. If intervention is recommended it can be intensive (more than once a week), weekly, or consultative.

Sensory Integration Intervention

What happens during an occupational therapy session where sensory integration techniques are used?
The Therapist typically structures the session using ideas and leads from the child to make the activities as meaningful as possible. Frequently the use of in imaginative play theme can enhance the child's willingness to engage in desired activities for longer periods of time. The rapport that the therapist and child develop is central to the therapy. The therapist is always working to provide the "just right challenge," while giving the child ample opportunities for enhanced sensory input to build a stronger foundation for skill.

How often should my child have therapy and for how long?
The length of therapy varies depending on what set of difficulties the child experiences, but is common for children to need 50-80 sessions of therapy. In some cases therapy is given two to three times per week, which may shorten the number of months of therapy.

Therapeutic Listening

What  is auditory intervention?
The use of auditory interventions as a therapeutic tool (also called sound therapy) has grown significantly in the past years.  These music based programs facilitate sensory processing by impacting the auditory and vestibular sensory systems. Clinical outcomes following a sound therapy program can include improved: self-regulation, attention, communication, temporal-spatial organization, motor control, visual motor skills, handwriting, and reading.

Music based sound stimulation programs find their origins in the work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis MD, a French ear, nose and throat specialist.  In the 1950's Dr. Tomatis developed the first auditory training program called the Tomatis Method. Generally Tomatis's principles and theories provided the foundation for other auditory stimulation programs.

What is the Therapeutic Listening Program?
The Therapeutic Listening Program was designed by occupational therapist, Sheila Frick, who is a clinician, writer and teacher. Therapeutic Listening is a term used to describe the therapeutic use of an extensive number of electronically altered compact discs coupled with sensory integration therapy techniques.  The electronically altered compact discs used in this program are based on ideas and technology created by Alfred Tomatis, Guy Berard, Bill Muellar, and Ingo Steinbach. Therapeutic Listening does not involve the use of a specialized machine and is therefore readily available for clinic, home and school use and listening duration is usually 30 minutes twice a day.  A typical program may be in place for six months however many individuals continue past this time frame and/or use several CDs as part of an ongoing "sensory diet".  Therapeutic Listening is implemented by a therapist who has received specialized training.

Frequently Asked Questions