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news News Thursday, April 23, 2020 Thursday, April 23, 2020 11:08 AM - Thursday, April 23, 2020 11:08 AM

Helping kids embrace challenges and enhance their lives through occupational therapy

Helping kids embrace challenges and enhance their lives through occupational therapy

Have you ever gone through your morning routine on autopilot? You brush your teeth, get dressed, and prepare a quick breakfast without thinking twice about what you are doing. There are many things in life that people often take for granted, like daily routine activities, things that seem so easy to do, until you don’t have the ability to do them.

At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston, the occupational therapy team works to help children reach those daily activity goals, and more. As an essential part of inpatient rehabilitation and orthopaedic clinics, the goal of occupational therapy is to improve the patients’ quality of life.

“Our goal is to get kids ready to go home,” occupational therapist Kelsey Kaminsky said. “This will depend on their diagnosis. Whether a child is being treated for a congenital anomaly or condition, or recovering from a brain or spinal cord injury – we address their individual needs.”

The focus of occupational therapy will often be on upper body movements. This involves splinting; strengthening the muscles in the hands, arms and shoulders; and working on certain activities like getting dressed, cooking a meal, self-feeding or writing. Patients recovering from an injury can struggle with different things, like vision and hand movement coordination, or figuring out the right order to do something.

“Sometimes their cognition may have been impaired, so they are not able to figure out the right order to do something, like figuring out whether to put the toothpaste on before or after putting the toothbrush in their mouth,” Kaminsky said. “That sounds like an obvious answer, but kids who have had an injury do struggle with something like that.”

Patients may have a hard time doing the things they were able to do every day prior to an injury. Through different interventions, therapists work to enhance the patient’s fine motor skills, strength, balance, coordination and appropriate perception – all camouflaged as play.  

“We try to do fun things, like doing yoga, making slime, work on arts and crafts that also focuses on their goals – it can often look like we are just playing but really, they are working on different skills,” Kaminsky said.

Occupational therapists work to help children not only achieve their needs, but also their wants. From joining the school band and playing the cello to riding a bike, patients are encouraged to expand their interests and abilities. Therapists can have splints created for children born with a limb difference that can allow them to have different grasps and controls. They also work with patients who have experienced limb loss or injury and now wear a prosthesis or a brace, teaching them how to adapt to their devices for their recreational needs.

As patients grow and develop different challenges that come along with their condition, or as they progress in their recovery from injury, their goals change, and so does their therapy. Occupational therapist Jessica Montoya said the Shriners Hospitals for Children rehabilitation teams are constantly collaborating when assessing patients’ individual needs. Occupational therapists, physical therapists and other practitioners provide very different perspectives for care, but the overall goal for the health of the patient is the same.

“There’s always a new challenge,” Montoya said. ”Work will never be the same from the day before. Occupational therapists are always learning and always adapting, but it’s great sharing that experience with colleagues, help educating the parents, and seeing kids progress and grow.”

Yoga class with patients and therapiststherapist working with patient