Our occupational therapy (OT) team aim to reduce barriers to pupils’ learning, develop their functional abilities and increase their independence. Our on site occupational therapists collaborate closely with class teams, speech and language therapists and families to ensure a coordinated approach to meeting each child’s individual needs.
Before entering Meath, each pupil is assessed at I CAN’s assessment centre. The assessment will indicate whether OT input may be required. If indicated therapy is tailored to the child’s individual needs. This may take the form of individual or group sessions, integrated class-based work, or strategies embedded across the curriculum to help each child achieve his/her potential.
OTs use purposeful activities (activities which required active participation and are directed towards a goal) to help children develop their skills for learning and life.
This includes developing sensory processing, emotional regulation, attention, movement, visual perception and organisational skills. This helps pupils to achieve independence in activities such as dressing, using cutlery, accessing playground equipment, handwriting, cutting with scissors and organising their classroom resources.
Occupational Therapy takes place in functional spaces such as the classroom and playground. When necessary therapy is provided in specially equipped therapy spaces, such as our purpose designed sensory-integration space.
OTs assess and provide equipment where needed to enable a child’s independence. This may include pencil grips, adapted cutlery and postural supports for seating. The focus of all OT input is to help pupils access the curriculum and learn to the best of their ability.
We use a variety of occupational therapy (OT) approaches and techniques to maximise children’s engagement and independence. These include:
OCCUPATIONAL PERFORMANCE MODEL
We identify specific barriers to a child’s functional skills and adapt the task or environment to maximise their abilities. This helps children practice core skills for dressing, feeding, recording work and using classroom tools.
AYRES SENSORY INTEGRATION (ASI)
This approach helps pupils with sensory processing challenges to improve the way they perceive sensory information (such as touch and sound) and respond to it. OTs expose the children to tailored sensory activities in the context of play and school-based tasks, ensuring the challenge is ‘just right’ for them to participate as much as possible. The OT’s who deliver this input hold specialist post-graduate training in ASI.
THERAPEUTIC LISTENING® PROGRAMME (TLP)
This evidence-based programme supports children who experience difficulties with processing senses (sensory processing dysfunction), listening, attention and communication. TLP uses audio to influence motor coordination.
Sound is a powerful way to access the nervous system, as the auditory system has connections to many parts of the brain. Pupils listen to specifically recorded and enhanced music via headphones as a part of a home therapy program. The average programme takes place over a 4-month period, although some children continue with certain music selections as part of a sensory diet/maintenance programme as advised by the OT.
TLP is not suitable for every child, but for those who take part, the programme is tailored to their individual needs and does not follow a set music progression. The OT will review music selections at set intervals to meet the child’s needs.
For children who are prone to anxiety, we use Quickshifts® to help them regulate their emotions. These are music selections which immediately promote a calm, alert state for organised and focused behaviour (referred to as the ‘alpha brainwave state’).
ZONES OF REGULATION AND SENSORY DIETS
The Zones of Regulation is a whole–school approach that helps children to understand and recognise their emotions. There are four Zones that are named the Green, Yellow, Blue and Red Zones. Each Zone includes a range of emotions. We teach children specific emotional vocabulary, the Zones and strategies to use as they progress through the school. This provides a consistent way for children to identify and share how they are feeling.
Zone boards are displayed throughout the school and we encourage children to refer to them throughout the day. As well as sharing how they are feeling, we support them to identify and use strategies to help themselves be ready to learn.
This is a hands-on approach which helps children who have difficulty controlling movements as a result of underlying neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy, head injury etc.
PERCEPTUAL MOTOR APPROACH
This approach uses sensory-based, age–appropriate activities that help children explore balance, coordination, rhythm and body awareness. This helps them to organise and interpret information in their environment and give it meaning. Visual and audio perception is an important foundation for learning.