New Visions for Occupational Therapy

My recent keynote presentation for the Quinnipiac University Student Conference “New Visions for Occupational Therapy” enabled me to reflect on the new directions I’ve taken in my occupational therapy practice. I’ve discovered that behavior is a major goal area for occupational therapy that dramatically effects our functioning. To successfully participate in learning and home life requires appropriate behavior and social skills, making these important areas to emphasize. #fabstrategies

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Many youth who have developmental, mental health, and behavioral challenges are not able to benefit from counseling or talk therapy but are motivated by sensory based purposeful activities. The best way to teach self-control is through coaching adolescents in functional self-control in their natural environment to non-aggressively manage their distress. Environmental adaptations, sensory strategies, mindfulness and exercise can all be individualized components of this intervention.

The final component of occupational therapy for adolescents with complex behavioral challenges is that it must be transdisciplinary. In both my clinical OT practice and when giving workshops I stress the importance of collaboration between students, parents, teachers as well as occupational, physical, speech and mental health therapists. My workshops through BER are directed at all of these disciplines, with an emphasis on helping preschool and kindergarten teachers.

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As a school occupational therapist I often collaborate with parents and teachers to assure that intervention includes not only pull out therapy but individual OT in the class room, small groups teaching social skills and Positive Behavioral Support (PBS) in the class room, and my participation leading whole class multi-sensory learning or PBS lessons. I also enable students with PTSD who become upset to immediately take OT breaks with teacher permission to re-gain self-control and return to class.

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My workshops with ERI and Therapro have enabled me to teach therapists to combine sensory and behavioral strategies. My FAB Strategies approach integrates environmental adaptations, sensory modulation, massage, positive behavior support, and physical self-regulation strategies.

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My occupational therapy practice with adolescents has evolved to emphasize sensory and behavioral interventions to improve the functional behavior of adolescents with complex behavioral challenges. I view interventions to improve functional behavior related to our meaningful occupations of school and home life a core area of occupational therapy. The ability to express distress without physical or verbal aggression has a major impact on the functioning of young adults.

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