Author: Nikita Schembri, MHSA.
World Occupational Therapy Day has arrived, in a month fittingly celebrating awareness for mental health, breast cancer , and much more. The word celebrating is appropriate as; any form of activity for public health is definitely worthy of celebration. During this month, KSU has also taken on the challenge of raising awareness for Neuro Disorders. Occupational therapy students are extremely appreciative of such awareness being raised.
Individuals with neuro-developmental disorders often show impairments in sensory processing and higher functions. This means that sensory information is perceived differently than other people. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Specific Learning Disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia), Communication Disorders (expression disorder, comprehension disorder, speech disorder, stuttering), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), all fall under neurodevelopmental disorders. With such broad terminologies, it is to no surprise that these disorders have affected the lives of so many. ‘Neuro-developmental disorders’ is truly an umbrella term that branches out into so much more. For this reason, the umbrellas on university quadrangle really struck a cord with occupational therapy students.
Sensory processing refers to the way the central and peripheral nervous systems manage incoming information from the different sensory modalities. These include proprioception, the vestibular system, and the external senses (vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch). In affected individuals, sensory input from the environment is poorly detected, modulated, or interpreted. Hence, abnormal responses are observed.
Through an Occupational Therapist’s intervention, certain difficulties (like for example behavioural abnormalities) are addressed, treated, or sometimes; just managed. This leads to improvement in adaptive, communicative behaviours, and social skills. The latter is especially done with children and studies show that cognitive therapy at a preschool level improves the prognosis of behavioural outcomes in children with neurodevelopmental disorders.
The intervention plan should cover the following concepts: planes of movement, alignment, range of motion, base of support, muscle strength, postural control, weight shifts, and mobility. When looking into neurodevelopmental disorders from a general view, these are often neglected as many just tend to look at the psychosocial aspect of communication. However, it is important to note how one’s movement ability/ control also has a huge impact to one’s psychosocial demeanor. It is thus, extremely important to be informed of roles, such as occupational therapy ,who can truly aid in management.
The Vestibular system is found within the inner ear and is important in maintaining balance, posture and control. Vestibular activities such as rolling on a yoga ball, riding a swing, and jumping rope, all have the ability to stimulate, calm, and improve vestibular processes.
The sense of Proprioception makes us aware of how our body moves and its position in space. Weight bearing activities, resistance activities (Pushing or pulling), heavy lifting, and oral
stimulation, activate the proprioceptive receptors found in our bodies. Tactile activities like massaging the hands and face with different textures are also used.
The role of the Occupational therapist is to select activities which are purposeful to the client. By taking a client-centred Approach, the OT empowers individuals, by improving their self-esteem and confidence and therefore increase participation in the person’s life roles.
Nikita is a second year OT student who fills a very active role in MHSA’s subcommittee.