How is private Occupational Therapy different from school based therapy?

In school based Occupational Therapy, children are most often treated in a group setting. Since each individual child is at a different developmental level it is difficult for the therapist to focus on the individual child’s unique needs and learning style.  The child’s therapeutic progress is therefore much more difficult to achieve in such a setting. Furthermore, schools require consistency in their standardized testing. In private practice, the therapist can select the assessment tools that will benefit and serve the child rather than the school system. The therapist is also free to select and to explore more creative approaches as well as modalities and interventions that will benefit the child. The therapist can control more variables in private practice; i.e. lighting, seating, table and/or desk height, positioning and type of equipment; i.e. by incorporating the use of assistive technology into sessions as needed. The therapist only has to focus on the needs of the child and family since there are no other distractions or constraints. The therapist can have consistent dialogue with family members for carryover.

What is Irlen® Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome©*?

Irlen® Syndrome is a visual perceptual problem that was discovered by the educational psychologist, Helen Irlen in California. It is a condition that cannot be diagnosed through standardized educational testing, or by a physical or visual exam. Individuals with this syndrome have a light sensitivity resulting in difficulty reading in bright lights, especially fluorescent. They are often bothered by glare, computer screens, overhead projectors and white boards. They have difficulty reading print, numbers and musical notes which can appear distorted. The distortions can appear immediately or after sustained reading.  The range and severity of symptoms is variable from person to person. The print can appear as shifting, moving, blurry, floating, pulsating, swirling, etc. The individual can have difficulty with contrast and figure-ground discrimination. For some individuals, the background can appear to take over or engulf the written print. Some other symptoms of this syndrome include difficulty with reading comprehension, slow and inefficient reading, difficulties with writing on a line and forming or reversing letters, losing one’s place reading, omission of letters or words, difficulty with depth perception and spatial awareness. This condition is not curable, but it can be treated with colored overlays and through the use of spectral lenses.

What is Sensory Integration?

“Sensory Integration” refers to the theory developed by A. Jean Ayres, an Occupational Therapist and neuroscientist. It refers to how our bodies organize and interpret all of the information coming from our seven senses (auditory, gustatory, olfactory, visual, tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive) into meaningful information. The most important senses are the vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile.

The vestibular receptors are in the inner ear and tell us where our head is in space. This sense provides awareness of balance and tells us about the quality of movement; i.e. is it fast, slow, rotary, linear and whether we are moving or if something in the environment is moving.

The proprioceptive sense provides information regarding muscle and joint position sense. This sense tells us where parts of our bodies are without having to visually observe them. This sense further enables us to manipulate utensils and modulate the degree of pressure exerted upon them appropriately. It tells us how much bodily force to utilize when performing gross motor activities such as throwing or kicking a ball.

The tactile receptors provide discriminatory information; i.e. the quality of an object- is it soft, hard, round, large, etc. as well as protective information, i.e. hot, cold, sharp. Children can be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to tactile sensations, or have a combination of the two.

For most children, sensory integration develops automatically, efficiently and naturally and provides the foundation for the development and the acquisition of functional skills as well as behavior and learning. Some children, however require therapeutic intervention to facilitate the development of adequate sensory integration. A trained and experienced therapist can determine if a child has any developmental deficits that can be addressed by the utilization of sensory integration treatment modalities.

*Copyright © 1991, 2005 by Helen Irlen. This material was reproduced from “Reading by the Colors” by Helen Irlen Penguin Putnam/Perigee Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©1998-2010 by Perceptual Development Corp/Helen Irlen. All rights reserved.

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