Work. That is the visual I had in my head when Baby Jude was initially referred to occupational therapy. I mean, it’s occupational, right? It is therapy designed to help injured, older or recovering people get back to work, right? How can a 7 month old baby need that? What daily living skills does he need to get back to his occupation?
What is a 7 month old baby’s occupation anyhow? He doesn’t carry a mini briefcase, and he sure doesn’t earn a paycheck. I remember thinking all of these goofy thoughts when Baby Jude was that 7 month old baby starting his love affair with occupational therapy at Akron Children’s Hospital.
And when he (and I) fell for his OT, Miss Angela.
Angela and Jude work together twice a month, and have for close to 2 years. In that time, I have learned a lot about the art of OT. I was wrong. It is not simply a part of a “return to work plan,” it’s not just daily living skills, there are no mini briefcases involved. OT, for Jude, is an hour in the week where he is “playing” and Angela is teaching him skills, and he is none the wiser.
There is always a method to her OT madness. Jude may think he is just painting with water on a chalkboard while standing on a box. But in the OT world, Angela is assessing, noting his balance, and discussing with me how he is using his wrist to make tight strokes with the paint brush rather than wide strokes as would be more typical. Is that just the way he colors? Or should we mention it to his low vision therapist and other team members?
And Jude just thinks he is painting. With water. On a chalkboard. Occupational therapy is an art form in and of itself. And Angela is an amazing artist.
OT is imperative to Baby Jude’s sensory needs. If you’ve read other blog posts I have written, you may remember that I tried, really tried, to not buy into the sensory processing disorder stuff. That plan failed, with good reason. Baby Jude indeed has a combo of low and high registry SPD.
Working with Angela has not only helped me see that, but she has helped me deal with it as it affects Jude’s daily living skills. For example, to brush an SPD kid’s teeth or clip his nails can be akin to Chinese water torture. Both for the kid and the parent inflicting said torture. Angela suggested an electric toothbrush to wake up his face before attacking the pearly whites with fluoride, and to attempt his nails after a bath when he is relaxed and the nails are softened from the water. Torture gone. Angela’s suggestions were spot on – they usually are.
Jude appreciates Angela, as do I. She is patient with him, and with me. She is creative and fun. He giggles at her smile, each and every time. They have a true bond. She has never forced information on me, especially the SPD stuff that I am sure she suspected I was avoiding. She simply and subtly took the lead – like when she moved us into the Sensory Integration Room for his sessions.
There was no big talk about it. She didn’t make a big deal of it. She simply booked the room, walked us in, did not even react when she saw me notice the signage reading “Sensory Integration Room.” She simply got down to her business of Jude’s OT. And Jude got down to his business of playing. And I got another lesson from the school of “You don’t know it all, Sarah.”
Baby Jude loves his OT time. He loves the beanbags, the sling swing, the sensory pit, all of the bells and whistles that come with it. And he loves his Angela. If they’re working on a puzzle or a stacking toy, he will reach back with his right hand to be sure she is still sitting behind him. He will even pat her on the knee, like saying “Thank You, Angela.”
Angela is part of what I call Baby Jude’s Therapy Trifecta at Akron Children’s Hospital – PT Jane, OT Angela and Speech Maria. They are all fantastic therapists, and now friends. Angela is an advocate for Baby Jude, a sounding board for me and someone for whom I have the utmost respect for.
Occupational therapy is an art I didn’t know enough about previously, but one that I am very grateful for now.
If you or a loved one is working with an OT, remember that April is Occupational Therapy Awareness Month. Please thank your OT team. Offer a warm handshake, or hug if you feel like, or thank her like Baby Jude will with a reach back and pat on the knee as a huge thank you for always sitting right behind him and pushing him forward. One fine motor skill at a time.
Happy Occupational Therapy Awareness Month!
As always, we are Grateful, Prayerful & Hopeful.
Read more about Baby Jude in the rest of Sarah’s blog posts.