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Archive for category: Occupational Therapy At Work

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What Makes a Building Truly Accessible?

There is a greater awareness in society that our buildings and spaces must be more accessible to the greatest majority of people.  But what exactly makes a building accessible?  Take a look at this fantastic blog care of the Rick Hansen Foundation that discusses how there is more to accessibility than just the physical space. 

Rick Hansen Foundation: From Where I Sit: Five Traits of a Meaningfully Accessible Building

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Foster Independence with Memory Mantras

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Being an Occupational Therapist can also be a curse when it comes to parenting.  As an OT, the goals are always functional independence.  As a parent, I am no different.  I remember a video I watched in OT school.  This was of a boy (young adult) with cerebral palsy and he was putting his coat on.  The video was probably 20 minutes (or it felt that long).  As I watched this boy struggle with his coat for what seemed liked eternity, I wanted to jump through the TV to help him.  Clearly, with some help, this could be done faster and easier.  But in the end, it was not about that.  It was about independence.

As parents, it is often faster and easier to do things for our kids.  Or, we feel the need to continuously protect our kids from failure by ensuring that we are their second brain.  But is this the right choice when the goal is to create people that can manage on their own?

I have created two memory mantras that are used in our house to ensure my kids are seeing the big picture and are developing some executive functioning (note I also use these mantras with my clients who suffer from memory impairment):

  1. When leaving the house our mantra is:  WHERE AM I GOING AND WHAT DO I NEED?  When my children ask themselves this question, they need to stop and think “I am going to X and thus need Y (water, shoes, birthday present, tennis racquet, money)”.  This prevents them from showing up at X unprepared.
  2. When leaving a place in the community our mantra is:  WHAT DID I COME WITH AND WHAT DO I HAVE?  By asking themselves this question, they quickly realize that they came with X and thus need to bring X home (coat, shoes, water, bag, lunch).  This prevents them from leaving things behind.

The success is in hearing my children repeat this to themselves when on their way out the door.  Recently, at a sporting event, we heard a teenage boy blame his mother for forgetting his water.  She was profusely apologetic and rushed out to find him a drink.  My children (who were younger at the time) turned to me and said: “shouldn’t he remember his own water”?  My thoughts exactly.

Originally posted June 2013

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Get Back to Routine with These Helpful Resources

Summer vacation is coming to a close and the kids are heading back to school!  Due to vacations, sleepovers, and the unstructured nature of no school, daily routines are often disrupted over the summer months. A consistent daily routine for kids is critical to them learning responsibility, time management, and so they get a good sleep.

Therefore in September, it is important to re-establish what morning, after-school and bedtime time should look like.

While growing up, in our house, we had each of our girls “daily routines” typed, laminated and posted in the back hall. Though each differed slightly, they included:

Morning: 

  • wake up at 7:00 am
  • make beds
  • get dressed
  • eat a healthy breakfast
  • brush teeth and hair
  • pack lunch and backpack
  • out the door by 7:40


After-School: 

  • shoes and back-packs away
  • lunch boxes emptied
  • dry snacks and water bottle packed for the next day
  • paperwork from school in the “in box”
  • have a healthy snack
  • do any homework
  • then play (no technology)!


Before Bed:  

  • dinner dishes put away
  • play areas and bedroom are tidy
  • shower
  • healthy bedtime snack
  • reading time
  • lights out at 9:00 pm

Use our great free printable that can be customized for your children. This will help them to stay on track each day in the morning, after-school and before bed. Be sure to review this with the kids before implementing, confirm the expectations, and get their commitment.  You’ll be well on your way to creating a less stressful and more organized home!  

Check out more of our FREE printables for both children and adults, available on our website!

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Functional, Yet Fashionable Clothing for All

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
Co-Written with Jacquelyn Bonneville, Occupational Therapist

As occupational therapists, we often see clients experience issues with dressing after an injury or as a result of a disability.  How do you dress when you have one arm?  Or, how can you don pants, socks and shoes when you have not feeling or movement in your lower body?  What about managing zippers and buttons with reduced fine motor control?  Spasms, reduced range of motion, the inability to stand for dressing, or body changes that make clothing options limited?  There are many reasons why dressing can become a problem.

As a society, we use fashion for several reasons – to manage the weather, for privacy from sensitive parts, and as an expression of ourselves.  Clothing and clothing choices are important.

Business-wear and athletic wear are two areas of fashion that are generally limiting for persons with dressing challenges.  For this blog, we wanted to introduce some simple, but still fashionable and functional, adaptations that can help manage the task of dressing if this has become difficult!

Lock Laces or Elastic Shoe Laces

Elastic and lock shoelaces are permanently tied, and allow for stretch of the shoe when putting it on or taking it off. This makes it a functional, inexpensive solution for anyone who doesn’t want to worry about their laces coming undone (especially athletes!), or for people who struggle with tying their shoelaces tight enough, or with the intricacies of actually tying the laces.  Note that often these are great in combination with a long-handled shoehorn.

Nike Flyease Sneakers

Nike has a line of slip-on ‘wrap-around-fasten’ shoes that are fashionable, including running shoes, kids shoes, and basketball style high-top sneakers (designed with basketball superstar LeBron James). Though designed for young adults with Cerebral Palsy initially, these shoes are suitable for anyone who wants some stylish sneakers, without the hassle of laces.

Under Armour Magzip

Zippers are often an integral part of our Canadian Fall and Winter attire to help secure our clothing to keep us warm. Zippers can actually be very challenging to co-ordinate for many reasons, and Under Armour tackled “fixing the zipper” in 2014 with their Magzip technology in a variety of unisex athletic-wear styles. The bottom part of the zipper is magnetic, meaning that it is far easier to ‘thread’ and pull up than a standard zipper, without sacrificing athletic hoodie style. See the press release for more information and a video explaining the technology.

IZ Adaptive Jeans

Jeans are a staple of many wardrobes, but they certainly shift and move when people are sitting or standing. For people who spend a lot of time sitting, including office workers and people who use wheelchairs, jeans can be extremely uncomfortable; jeans regularly have rivets on the back pocket which can cause discomfort while seated, they have the same rise around the waist so when you sit they are either too low or bunch up, and the front button can dig into your waist when you sit down.

IZ Adaptive has designed a line of jeans designed for wheelchair users that offer an easier ring to work the zipper, a clasp instead of a front button, and are overall designed with the different body position of a person while sitting instead of standing. Be sure to look online for other companies offering similar adaptive jean designs!

Part of the role of Occupational Therapy is to have insight and knowledge about products that will help an individual function independently, without sacrificing style, priorities, or efficiency. For more information about customized products that may work for your individual needs, speak with an Occupational Therapist!

As a last inspiring thought, check out this link to the story of a beautiful model with Down Syndrome, Madeline Stuart, who is changing perceptions of disability, while being stylish at the same time.

Previously posted January 2016

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The Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Guest Blogger: Carolyn Rocca, Occupational Therapist

Water has long been associated with health and healing, making it an excellent tool for rehabilitation. Hydrotherapyalso referred to as pool therapy or aquatic therapy, is one way in which water can be used for therapeutic purposes following injury or illness.

Hydrotherapy refers to water-based treatments or exercises aimed to enable physical rehabilitation, fitness, and relaxation for therapeutic purposes. Treatments and exercises are performed while floating, partially submerged, or fully submerged in water, usually in specialized temperature-controlled pools. The key difference between this form of therapy and land therapy is that movement is facilitated by the physical properties of water, particularly it’s density and specific gravity, hydrostatic pressure, buoyancy, viscosity, and thermodynamics (Becker, 2009).

Due to the specific facilitating properties of water, hydrotherapy can have several benefits for people who have loss or restriction of joint motion, strength, mobility, or function as a result of a specific disease or injury. Aquatic therapies are beneficial in the management of musculoskeletal issues, neurological conditions, and cardiopulmonary problems. More specifically, there is evidence to support that people with fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, and chronic pain, as well as people who have undergone surgeries such as total knee and total hip replacements, can significantly benefit from aquatic therapy (CARI, 2014).

The benefits of hydrotherapy will depend on the purpose of why it is being used in your rehabilitation plan, what it is aiming to target, and the type of exercise being completed in the water. In general, there is evidence to support that within a wide range of ages and abilities, hydrotherapy may help people to increase their endurance and strength, improve balance and postural control, reduce perceived pain and muscle spasms, reduce joint pain and stiffness, aid in gait retraining, and improve functional mobility. Additional benefits can include the facilitation of relaxation, improved quality of life, as well as providing opportunities for socialization (CARI, 2014).

A key to the success of many hydrotherapy procedures is the constant attendance and guidance provided by a trained therapist. This can be any rehabilitation professional, such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, PTA/OTA, etc., who has taken additional and specific training in basic or advanced aquatic physical therapy. The rehab professional’s expertise will be able to match your abilities with the appropriate properties of water to achieve an optimum balance between facilitation and challenge. By adjusting the immersion temperature, type, and intensity of activity, level of resistance, use of equipment, and treatment duration the therapist will be able to assist your recovery by gradually increasing the amount of challenge to eventually help you to transition to land exercises.

An added bonus to the therapeutic benefits of aquatic therapy is that it can help to introduce or re-connect you to a leisure interest, and can offer a social outlet. For example, a current client of mine has recently begun pool therapy following injuries sustained in a motor-vehicle collision. Not only will this help in her recovery while she begins to regain strength and function in her legs, but will also re-connect her to her passion for swimming, as this was something she loved to do with friends prior to her accident. Additionally, there is evidence to support that infants and toddlers with mobility impairments that engaged in aquatic therapy can experience significant functional gains in mobility compared to children who solely received land therapy, and that their parents noticed an increase in their socialization and enjoyment while in the pool. In this particular study, the children’s parents then reported an increased willingness and comfort in bringing their children to community pools following aquatic therapy (McManus, & Kotelchuck, 2007), therefore further increasing their future leisure and social opportunities.

Thus, hydrotherapy has the potential to improve physical function, as well as increase community involvement, socialization opportunities, and participation in physical activities. Additionally, this form of therapy can be appropriate and beneficial for all ages and abilities. If you feel that hydrotherapy may be a great addition to your rehabilitation and recovery, speak to your rehabilitation professional about some of the opportunities available in your community.

References & Resources

Becker, B. E. (2009). Aquatic therapy: scientific foundations and clinical rehabilitation applications. PM&R, 1(9), 859-872.

Canadian Aquatic Rehab Instructors (CARI) website: http://www.aquaticrehab.ca/

Canadian Aquatic Rehab Instructors (CARI) website link to research (2014). Retrieved from http://www.aquaticrehab.ca/research

McManus, B. M., & Kotelchuck, M. (2007). The effect of aquatic therapy on functional mobility of infants and toddlers in early intervention. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 19(4), 275-282.

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Recognizing Sensory Seeking in Children

Issues with sensory processing are one of the most common reasons parents seek the services of an Occupational Therapist.  One of the most troubling sensory related concerns for parents is when their child is a “sensory seeker.” Sensory seekers are constantly “on the go” as they are attempting to obtain the sensory input that their bodies crave.

In our OT-V episode (below), we discuss how an Occupational Therapist can help if you are concerned that sensory seeking may be a problem for your child. 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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Cognitive Strategies Following ABI

People with an Acquired Brain Injury, or ABI, often have issues with memory or other higher-level brain activity after their injury, and suddenly, completing daily life tasks becomes very difficult. They may struggle with things like remembering names and faces, the things they need to do in a day, or they may even forget or lack insight that they even have an ABI.

Occupational Therapists have the skills to get many people with brain injuries back to everyday life!

Learn about some of the strategies Occupational Therapists use to help those who have suffered an ABI in the following episode from our OT-V series, Acquired Brain Injury – Cognitive Strategies.

 

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Brain Injury Recovery O-Tip of the Week: There’s an App for That!

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  Therefore, for the month of June, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the common cognitive deficits that can result from brain injury.

Remember the old Apple commercials… “There’s an app for that!”  Well, isn’t that the truth.  You can find apps for just about anything, and in fact, there are some great apps that can assist with memory and cognition for those who are recovering from a brain injury.  Some of these apps are summarized below:

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Treating Executive Dysfunction: There is No “One Size Fits All”

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

As a caring professional, I refuse to believe that my clients are not motivated.  All of my clients have goals or I would not be treating them.  However, their ability to achieve their goals independently remains the reason that they require active therapy.  Previously, I wrote about executive functioning (Brain Injury and Executive Functions – When the CEO is on Hiatus), the capacities we require to achieve a goal, and used the example of moving to highlight how people with executive dysfunction may feel on a regular basis when completing relatively simple tasks.

Treatment for executive dysfunction is as broad as it is specific.  It is broad because everyone experiences brain injury differently and comes into that type of trauma with varying levels of ability to start with.  However, treating problems with executive function is really as simple as taking a goal and breaking this down into component parts, manageable chunks, and smaller goals within the whole.

So, returning to the moving example, assisting someone with executive dysfunction with a pending move will involve making checklists, with time frames, and checking on progress frequently.  Personally, I like to take a project approach:  calling the goal “Operation Move” and mapping out – start to finish – the metrics for success.  Perhaps in month one an “apartment hunting worksheet” is created to help a client summarize all the places they are looking at, the pros/cons, address, and list of questions that need to be answered (price, utilities included, length of the lease, etc.).  Often I encourage my clients to use a smartphone to take photos of the options then we cross-reference these and catalog them to keep things organized.  From there, the process continues with checklists for calls to make, addresses to change, ways to organize packing and management of belongings.  Ensuring the client is responsible for follow-up via “homework” between sessions and holding them accountable for completion of this aids to developing independence.  Really, the therapeutic goal is more than just ensuring the client is able to move successfully.  Rather, it is demonstrating a model and method that can be used for any future transitions, goals or tasks.  This ensures success that is transferable to other events at later dates. 

 

Previously posted June 2013