“His fine motor skills are very weak, tearing paper into thin strips at home, using his thumb and index fingers, will help with this” – the feedback I received at Kai’s very first parent/teacher meeting when he was only 3 years old.
Two years later I would receive similar feedback at another parent/teacher meeting. “His motor skills are very weak, I suggest you consider OT” I just nodded my head, but inside I was shouting, “WTF woman! OT? Here I am just struggling to pay Speech Therapy fees and trying to get to the bottom of his hearing loss just diagnosed a few months ago. Yet you worrying about OT knowing that he can’t hear you in class! WTF!?” Really, I was livid, but didn’t say anything.
A year later, the topic came up again at his new school, a special needs school. “His motor skills are weak, we suggest that he joins group OT”. This time, my response was very different! OT was part of the services offered by the school!
He came home with weekly OT homework sheets and exercises for us to do at home. My mom or I would often observe the group sessions. Later we completed a sensory profile where it was confirmed that he struggled in almost every area!
I honestly didn’t know much about OT, my focus up to this point has predominantly been on developing auditory skills, language and speech, pushing back at professionals to get my child amplified… I accepted that I needed to clear some “mental” space to get to grips with this OT and SPD. At school he made good progress, classes were small (8 kids) and OT group was even smaller (4 – 6 kids).
Fast forward to 2014, and we now found ourselves in a mainstream school and continued with OT, initially one-on-one, and then he “progressed” to group OT at school.
Initially all I could think was, “Great! That’s cutting my costs by 50%”, a financial breather, one I desperately needed. As a mother I’ve always just wanted the best for my son, but the best came at significant cost to me, a single parent with no medical aid!
The first few weeks in group OT was an adjustment, he worked slower than the other kids and to be honest, I didn’t quite know much about the focus in group OT and I had no contact with his therapist. Towards the end of the third term, the terrible meltdowns began. It drained me, it drained him…a sensory diet was implemented, but still, this was not enough.
You see I just didn’t get it! I didn’t know how an increase in school work and the complexity thereof would impact on my son. I was clueless!
I knew my son struggled with sensory modulation and sensory defensiveness. His limited vestibular and proprioceptive processing also influenced the development of posture control and balance reaction. He had immature bilateral integration and sequencing skills which impacted on his gross and fine motor skills. Reading his November OT report, I realized that we were premature in sending him to group OT, especially since the group work focussed on fine motor skills only (I only realised this when I received his November progress report).
We started individual OT again this year and a few weeks ago I’ve had to have a very honest discussion with his occupational therapist…The approach wasn’t working… I asked for a discharge report. I’ve since evaluated where I may have faulted in my approach.
I’ve accepted that as his mother, I should have been closer to his OT, I should have cultivated a closer relationship and should have asked pertinent questions as to the reasons why he was “ready” for group work. Did he reach the development goals eluded to in his initial assessment? Would it be in his best interest to move him to group work that would require him to be taken from classroom instruction knowing how dependent he is on structure and routine?
Yes, I may have needed that financial break, BUT at the cost of my child….I believe that this financial break opened my eyes as to what it is that we need from OT. I have a new approach, a new plan; one that requires an occupational therapist that meets with all my below requirements (apart from needing to be liked by my son off course):
- Effective communication
- Team Work
- Detailed Goals
- Opportunity to Participate
- Tips to Bring OT into the Home
I’m looking for a new OT, even though I have a relatively good idea of how best to manage the SPD at home. But I need to find someone who can also help my son manage his challenges independently and work on his gross and fine motor skills. OT may or may not be the answer. Only time will tell.
For now, I’ve signed him up with Fit-Kids. He attended a trial session last week and you can read what he had to say about this at his latest blog post here.
Parenting is never easy; even if we make it seem that way…