Telethon Speech & Hearing’s Occupational Therapy team celebrated ‘OT Week’ with a series of activities for TSH staff aimed at providing a better understanding of the skills the OT team focuses on and supports students with at the school.
The theme for this year’s OT Week is “What OT means to me” and staff were encouraged to capture personal experiences of OT on a poster.
The first activity staff engaged in was called jelly stereognosis and required participants to identify common household items hidden under a cloth, embedded in soft jelly.
“People who have difficulty with touch stereognosis (identifying objects using touch alone) may, for example, have difficulty searching through a school bag to find an item,” explained TSH’s Chloe Moore. “Touch difficulties are related to sensory processing and can be complex, impacting on a person’s ability to engage in a range of occupations such as self-care tasks, handwriting, cutting and cooking. Touch processing is so important as we use our hands all the time in everyday activities and we often take that for granted.”
Some staff showed heightened stress at not knowing what they were going to touch, while others enjoyed the tactile sensory activity.
“People with differences in their touch sensation may respond to textures in ways that we may not expect them to, such as disliking their hands getting wet or dirty; the feeling of clothing on their skin i.e. tags, seams; disliking or having strong food preferences when eating at mealtimes; or they may be aversive or avoid some touch experiences such as painting, cooking and washing.”
“Children with tactile defensiveness experience these strong and unpleasant physiological responses to all sorts of everyday textures that they are exposed to throughout their day which can impact their participation and engagement,” Moore elaborated.
From here, the OT’s challenged participants to shoot over stacked cups using a spray water bottle. “This activity investigates a person’s hand strength, eye-hand coordination, and visual tracking skills,” said Moore. “Staff were encouraged to stack paper cups into a pyramid using the correct force and then use the spray bottles to trigger and aim water to knock each cup down in a systematic top to bottom approach.”
Finally, the participants moved onto blindfold threading. This activity involved blindfolding staff to see if they could use two hands to manipulate and thread beads onto string.
“This activity involves using the touch and proprioceptive sensory systems as well as problem solving to plan and adjust your motor movements to be successful with the task.
“As OTs, we help students to coordinate using their two hands together and develop their grips and grasps so they can manipulate objects efficiently and effectively.”
Participants were timed, with the incentive to complete the task in the shortest period of time being a bottle of wine for the winner.
“Our main focus in Occupational Therapy is to ensure students at TSH are motivated and confident to use their strengths, skills and abilities to have fun and participate in school life,” explained Moore. “OT week is a great opportunity to showcase how we might do this in therapy and educate staff regarding the different supports we provide.”