Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What Ever Becomes of the Children I Work With?

Recently, I have bumped into families that I had previously worked with. Each time, I recognized the mom first, not the child. And it was just a fluke that I was even in those places, because they weren't stores or times that I would have been typically shopping. It was meant to be that I ran into them! I have been an occupational therapist in this city for 12 1/2 years, so I should expect to be "wow-ed" to see what my young clients have grown into. It is a good thing that I don't forget faces and names very often. However, when I do forget a name, it usually comes back to me after talking to them for awhile.

The most amazing encounter was this young man who is now a teenager; I provided occupational therapy from pre-K through first grade with him. Wow, what a handsome young man he has become. He is now over 6 feet tall! Just think, he was once small enough for me to toss around over a therapy ball! This young man has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and he continues to walk with a reverse walker. I had hoped that one day he would ambulate without any devices. But I think by watching him walk, his leg muscles are just too tight, especially since he is so tall. Often kids who walk briefly on their own when they are small, can't walk independently once they have grown because of tight tendons. On the happier side, it was nice to see how bright, articulate, and handsome he is!

Three times this past year, I have ran into families that have a child diagnosed with autism. These children that graduated the ECI program I work with at the age of 3 years are now in pre-K or kindergarten. All of them have made amazing progress in either the private or public school programs they have attended. All of them have made massive progress with their language skills, behavior, and attention span. All but one are in a regular education classroom. The one common thing with these families was that they work with their child at home, enroll them in a program while the child is 3-5 years old, and are on "special" diets. This really makes me smile, because when I quit working with children at the age of three years there are so many roads that family and child could go down.

Up intil 2004, I worked primarily in outpatient settings with children birth to 18 years of age. So, I know what children with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disorders look like as babies, children, teenagers, and adults. There is such a wide range of how these children look and function. But once again the common thread of the children who make the most improvement is families who are willing to work with their child...not just take them to a clinic or school and let someone else do all the work. After all, their are seven days in a week which can also be thought of "there are 168 hrs in a week". Even if therapies total 10 hours a week, school totals 40 hours a week, and the child sleeps 70 hours a week, there is still a remainder of 48 hours in the week. What is the child doing during this time? Well, hopefully a little bit of rest and relaxation mixed in with family time in the home and community.

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