Occupational therapists help patients from a variety of backgrounds, from those who have debilitating medical conditions to soldiers returning from war with multiple injuries. My youngest sister has Down syndrome, so she has been working with an occupational therapist since she was a toddler. Kaitlin’s therapists have all been wonderful people. They’ve helped her develop her motor skills, which is a very important part of living a healthy life. However, one of the greatest things that Kaitlin’s occupational therapists have done for her is teaching her the value of creativity.
An occupational therapist’s goal is not only to address their patients’ physical needs, but to take into consideration the social, psychological and environmental factors that impact their patients’ progress. For my sister, especially when she was a baby, getting her to participate in things was not always easy. She would watch, but not join in when her twin brother (who does not have Down syndrome) would play. It wasn’t until her occupational therapist started using the arts in their sessions that Kaitlin started to get involved for the first time.
Creativity Isn’t Just for Artists
In occupational therapy, being able to think outside the box can be extremely beneficial. Occupational therapists have many techniques at their disposal when it comes to utilizing creativity. The arts are more than just tools for self-expression. They are also extremely valuable for hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning and speech development. For Kaitlin, her journey started with music.
She could make sounds and was very slowly starting to talk. Her occupational therapist started teaching her some songs, both the verbal lyrics and incorporating some sign language and hand gestures. From the very first note, Kaitlin was engaged. She watched intently the first few times. Then she started making sounds along with the music and moving her hands. Soon after, she was starting to learn some of the words and she’d mastered all of the movements. To see this sweet little girl go from knowing a handful of words to being able to sing entire songs was moving beyond belief.
Using the Arts as Patients Grow Up
As Kaitlin got older, her therapists continued to introduce new ways to use art to help aid her development. Since music was so effective, they continued to use songs to get Kaitlin moving and help with her speech development. Once her fine motor skills reached the point where she could hold a pencil on her own, they started using art as well.
I have stacks and stacks of pictures that Kaitlin has drawn for me throughout the years. Not only did drawing and writing help her, it also brought her immense joy. A box of crayons and a notebook are all my sister needs to have a good time. Seeing her skills develop is always wonderful, but seeing her happiness is the greatest gift of all.
Kaitlin is now about to go into high school. The creativity that her occupational therapists fostered in her is a huge part of the beautiful young lady that she has become. She still loves to sing and draw. She also has been dancing since elementary school. Whenever she is performing, she is truly in her element. As I watched her perform during her last dance recital, I thought of how far she’s come from the days when she used to just watch. Every pirouette and plié was a testament to the creativity her occupational therapists applied to her work.
This guest post was provided by Erin Palmer. Erin writes about physical therapy degrees and occupational therapy graduate programs for US News University Directory. For more information please visit http://www.usnewsuniversitydirectory.com