The song "Let's Hang On," by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, often comes to mind when I think of Elsa's journey with OT, or Occupational Therapy.
For my girl to participate in the world around her, she has to follow the lead of this song and HANG ON to whatever she's got in those sweet little hands of hers. So I'm making this catchy little ditty the theme song of our Occupational Therapy Awareness Month 2017:
Elsa has had FIVE different OT's. (Currently she has THREE.) Every OT she's worked with has been overwhelmingly generous to her, and to our family, in their time and energy and resourcefulness.
In order for Elsa to use her body, she has to first have "body awareness." That means, she has to know where her body is in space. (We typical folks do this all day long without thinking about it: Running up and down the stairs. Bumping up against things. Feeling a gentle breeze.)
To facilitate Elsa's body awareness, our OT's have tried it all:
- Joint compressions
- Vision therapy
- Hand splints and arm stabilizers
- Compression vests
- Swings and slides
- Yoga ball bouncing
- Gooey messy play
- And on, and on, and on...
Once we've optimized her body awareness, then we get to work. For YEARS, Elsa's been working to clear foundational hurdles. To be frank, without much success.
Emptying buckets of blocks, bones, beads... It's tough work for her. And it's also really tough to watch. Most days, she just can't make her hands do what her brain wants them to do. We're always working on:
- Sustained grasp: This means holding on to something for a prolonged period of time. Like a toothbrush or spoon or lego. Elsa will typically drop these things after about 3 seconds. Tops.
- Controlled release: This refers to putting things where you want them - in a bowl, bucket or box, etc. Basically, placing items with control.
Over and over we try, doing our best to help her brain map a path to her hands by repetition. This is called motor planning - synching up your body with your brain. Super hard for Els.
My point is this: These OT's have committed their careers to digging deep into their tool boxes (and literal bags of tricks) to help Elsa develop her fine motor abilities. Even when it's extraordinarily frustrating.
And they don't give up on her. And they don't give up on us.
They help us HANG ON to hope.
This persistence recently earned us one of the most exciting moments of our lives, when Elsa held onto a therapy swing (below) at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital for 14 minutes!
Here's video evidence. In this moment, she's in survival mode! But she does seem to like the size and feel of the rubber ropes. And swinging is obviously fun, especially with her awesome therapists cheering her on: GO ELSA!
The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., has encouraged people to share their OT stories socially this April, and it was a pleasure to do so with all of you. THANK YOU FOR READING!
You can extend the reach of OT Awareness month too, by sharing this blog post on Facebook or Twitter, or by emailing it to your friends.
But my MAIN REASON for sharing all of this with you? Other than bragging on Elsa? I never knew OT was a career option, when I was choosing my path in life. While I'll always be at my keyboard (for me, there's no other way), it's my hope that more young people consider this rewarding profession. Read more here.
OT's are ALWAYS in short supply and in HIGH demand in the therapy realm. In every city, in every state. (Trust me, I've done lots of research.)
If you, or someone you know, is thinking of becoming an OT... Do it. OT's give parents like us the encouragement to keep forging ahead, and give kiddos like Elsa a fighting chance at a life like yours and mine.