Updated: Mar 25, 2019
As we learnt in part one, we all interpret different senses in our own unique ways. But how exactly does occupational therapy help?
Well, first of all an occupational therapist will talk with you to work out what occupations (or activities) you or your child are experiencing difficulty in. The therapist may need to observe you engaging in those activities, for example visit your school to see why you might be finding it hard to concentrate. The therapist may also complete a Sensory Profile, which involves completing a questionnaire to work out how your brain reacts to different types of stimuli.
There are 4 main patterns of processing information, and some of us will have characteristics of all at once! These patterns are called:
- Sensory Seeking
- By Stander
- Avoiding and;
Based on your style of processing, the occupational therapist will help you to overcome difficulties by helping you to understand yourself better, suggesting changes to your environment, and providing you with activities to trial which can help your sensory system work for you better.
So what are these 4 patterns? I’ve decided to let the animals of 100 Acre Wood be our examples:
Tigger – Sensory Seeking
Tigger is having difficulty at school, he seems to get into trouble a lot and doesn’t seem to pay attention. After talking with Tigger, the occupational therapist works out that Tigger is finding it really hard having to stay still, and he finds himself jumping around the classroom and distracting his friends. The occupational therapist works out from completing an interview and identifies that Tigger is a Sensory Seeker. Tigger, like Sensory Seekers, needs extra sensation for his brain to notice it, this makes it hard for him to concentrate. Tigger has learnt that by jumping around he is able to keep his brain engaged, unfortunately this doesn’t work very well in a classroom environment. The occupational therapist works with Tigger to find other ways to stay engaged, he may need toys to fiddle with and lots of breaks during the day to move his body. The occupational therapist helps Tigger’s school to make sure that he has these opportunities and works with Tigger and his family to understand him better and to recognise his strengths.
Eeyore – By Stander
Eeyore is having difficulty at home, his parent’s find it frustrating that he doesn’t seem to listen to instructions, and spends a lot of time day dreaming and that his room is an absolute mess. The occupational therapist identifies that Eeyore has a “By Stander” style of sensory processing. By Stander’s like Eeyore also need extra sensation for their brain to recognise it, but unlike the Seekers, By Stander’s don’t seek out that extra input, making them feel lethargic or tired. The occupational therapist helps Eyeore and his family understand him better, and develop strategies to make cues more noticeable. His family learn that Eeyore may need labels on his drawers so his brain can better work out where things go, his family learn to tap Eeyore on the shoulder before giving him instructions so they know they have his attention.
Rabbit – Avoiding
Rabbit is coming to occupational therapy because he is struggling to go the supermarket to collect groceries, and this has lead to him having to ask his friends to drop off his food for him. The occupational therapist talks with Rabbit and his family and identifies that he is a Sensory Avoider style of processing. Rabbit finds noises completely overwhelming, dislikes visually busy places and hates being bumped in ques by strangers. To manage this, Rabbit has his house under complete order and control, and where he can’t control his environment, he avoids. The occupational therapist helps the Rabbit understand his system better, and starts to work with him to allow Rabbit to develop strategies to cope in environments he can’t control. Over time, Rabbit builds up the confidence to shop for himself again.
Piglet – Sensitivity
Piglet finds it really tricky going to parties and spending time with his friends. Piglet likes spending time with his mates if it’s just 1:1, but seems to end up feeling completely overwhelmed when in a group situation, especially if it is over a long period of time. The occupational therapist works with Piglet and helps him to understand himself better. Piglet’s style of processing is described as Sensory Sensitivity. Piglet find it difficult being in busy settings, as he takes in so much information at once. Instead of listening to the person talking to him, Piglet’s brain is also listening to the conversation across the room. The occupational therapist works with Piglet so he is more active in managing his sensory needs. Piglet learns techniques to keep himself calm in busy places, and learns to give himself rest breaks he’s feeling overwhelmed.