Areas of Specialism
Occupational therapists work across a variety of settings from elderly care, to rehabilitation, to mental health. Therefore, it's possible to be a specialist in any number of areas. At Open Arms, we are very lucky to have therapists who have various areas of specialism within the umbrella of children and young people, including neurodiversity, sensory processing, mental health and behaviours that challenge.
This means that every assessment, every intervention is different, and underpinned by various models, theory and research to make sure that support is appropriate and targeted. If for example, assessments consistently look for sensory difficulties or neurodiversity, other important areas of function are easily overlooked and recommendations aren’t as effective as they perhaps could be. The variety of skills, professional backgrounds and experience of our therapists ensures that the occupational therapy provided at Open Arms is truly client-centred and holistic.
Below are some of the areas of occupational therapy that Open Arms Support Services can help with:
Open Arms therapists adopt a functional approach to sensory processing; taking into account the sensory components of the environment, the occupations and the skill set of the person being assessed. Our therapists try to gain an understanding of the person's whole lived life and therefore, our clinical work typically takes place in the environments that important, such as home and school.
Sensory processing is assessed using standardised and non-standardised assessments, observations, consultations with family and school staff and also via informal clinical work. This approach allows the therapist to consider the client's functioning across multiple environments.
The thorough and multi-faceted assessment process enables Open Arms occupational therapists to develop bespoke, outcome focused, and evidence based interventions, with an emphasis on using normal, every day activities to encourage a child to self-regulate. This facilitates increased awareness of sensory needs and has a positive impact on all areas of functioning.
All Open Arms therapists are able to complete assessment and intervention with children and adults who have sensory processing difficulties, with some staff being qualified to assess and deliver Ayres Sensory Integration Therapy, also known as SI therapy.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills are acquired in childhood and are the physical skills that require whole body movement. Large (core stabilising) muscles are involved to help us perform daily activities such as sitting, standing and walking. Gross motor skills impact our ability to engage in activities of daily living and are influenced by other systems such as our ability to process sensory information. Difficulties with gross motor skills can have significant consequences in how we engage with our environment, perform functional tasks and engage socially as well impacting our emotional well-being.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills involve the use of the smaller muscles of the hands. They are essential for functional tasks such as doing up buttons and are also a key component of other occupations such as play (eg: building Lego) and academic learning (eg: handwriting). Fine motor skill efficiency affects the speed and quality of task performance. They are influenced by other key skills such as visual motor integration and bilateral coordination. Consequently, poor fine motor skills can impact a wide range of occupations which in turn, can impact occupational identity and emotional well-being.
Handwriting is the summation of the integration of multiple skills including (but not limited to) fine and gross motor skills, visual perceptual skills and sensory processing. Therefore, despite the increase in the use of technology in recording information, handwriting remains important because of the variety of skills that are involved in producing a piece of writing.
As mental health care has progressed, the recovery model has become increasingly prominent. This acknowledges that "recovery" or progress is a long term process with the long term goal being full participation in community activities, including education. The recovery model and occupational therapy work well together as occupational therapy aims to enable people to engage in meaningful activity (i.e. education). In other words, occupational therapy facilitates participation and is client-centred.
Occupational therapists are able to work with children and adolescents, supporting them to develop strategies to manage mood, anxiety, anger, self harming behaviours, suicidal thoughts and symptoms of post traumatic stress as well as symptoms of other mental health difficulties. Attachment problems can also be addressed. For younger children, play is frequently used as the therapeutic medium.
Open Arms occupational therapists have significant experience in working with children and adolescents with mental health and emotional well-being issues in an education setting. Open Arms is sympathetic to the challenges that education staff face when supporting children with these difficulties and also offer training for Teachers, SENDCo's and Teaching Assistants.