Monday, August 16, 2010

Occupational Therapy Evaluation

I took Joseph for his evaluation by the occupational therapists at Children's Hospital today. Kara, the OT, started with some fine motor tests. She had him draw some straight lines on a paper. She tried to get him to draw a +, but instead he wanted to scribble. She drew a circle, and instead of drawing his own circle, he draw eyes, a mouth and ears on hers. She had him string some beads on a string, tried to get him to stack a block on top of two others, like a bridge, but he wasn't interested in doing that. But he was happy to stack all the cubes in one tall stack. She tried to get him to unbutton and rebutton some buttons on a piece of fabric, but once again he didn't seem too interested in trying.

Next Kara observed him in a sort of in-door playground while I filled out yet another questionnaire about Joseph's habits and behavior. Joseph showed her what an excellent climber he is, and what a fast runner. I felt so bad because he kept running over to where other kids were working and interrupting them.

When she was done observing him, she told me that she was recommending that Joseph have regular occupational therapy and she gave me some papers describing a "sensory diet" that we should start working on with Joseph. She said that his behavior, the inability to focus, climbing on things and then leaping off without worrying about falling, and the way he moves indicate that he's starved for certain types of sensory input. This would totally explain why he sometimes bites himself. We've got a list of activities that will stimulate different types of senses, and if we do these things with him on the right schedule then it should help him focus at other times, to "normalize his arousal levels". At least that's my understanding. This is all new to me, I didn't even know what occupational therapy was, so I've got a whole new vocabulary to learn before I'll be able to explain it well.

I feel like we're learning something important here that will help us help Joseph. I had read that people with ASD tended to have sensory processing issues, but I didn't (and still don't really) entirely understand the implications of this, or how it manifests specifically in Joseph. But now I'm optimistic and confident that we will, and understanding this will make it easier to deal with Joseph and help him.

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