Yesterday was D’s long-awaited trip to the occupational therapist. I say long-awaited as it was last June the whole process began to get him looked at after the school thought it would be a good idea because of his wonky fingers – which have since been diagnosed as hyper mobility.
His appointment was after lunch, so he had the morning at school, and wasn’t too happy at that prospect! I think the thought of seeing yet another new person to prod him about was worrying him ever so slightly. He was fine though when I picked him up, and despite the rain, we went to have a picnic with Hubby – he works in a building right next door to the hospital.
As the time of the appointment approached, he began to ask what they would be doing to him – I of course couldn’t give him an exact answer, just that it was to try to get him some help for his hands because of his funny joints. He was happy with that explanation.
We were a little early and he was happy to play a few races on the Mario Kart wii game in the waiting room, but held tight to my hand once his name was called.
The occupational therapist was only about 12 – I think that is a real sign I am getting old when everyone seems to be so much younger than me!, but she was very pleasant, and spoke to D, only including me in the questions when he wasn’t being responsive. When asked if he knew why he was there he said “because I can do this”, and proceeded to do his party piece of bending his fingers the wrong way – makes my stomach churn every time he does it!
There was a second OT in the room, observing from behind, and making notes. It was a huge room and we were sat in the corner, and I don’t know about D but it did feel intimidating being observed from both sides!
Firstly they had him doing some writing, as this is our major concern. His school work suffers because he finds holding pencils so painful. We have tried different styles of grips, as has his teacher, so he was showing the OT which ones he had used in her huge array of different styles. She had him choose his favourite and set him about writing his name a few times. As usual he was gripping his pencil so hard his fingers were turning white, and his pressure was causing the paper to go through. Seeing him do this, it is amazing the things you just accept and not realise they are a little out of the ordinary! She then gave him a sloping board to use, it meant that not just the angle of his hand changed, but that of his whole body as he had to improve his posture to use it! Straight away, the writing he did was much less pushed through the paper. They decided he should be given a board to take to school to use.
He then had to demonstrate his use of scissors, which is something he usually looks so dangerous doing as he fumbles with, but instead today, he was cutting very patiently, and looked as if he had no problem there. He so wants to please people that he made sure he did what he was asked to do, even though it was at half the speed and potentially painful.
Using cutlery has always been an issue for him, and he much prefers to use his hands. We have not been sure if this is because of his fingers, or a sensory thing to do with his aspergers. They tried him with various styles of cutlery, having him cut up play-doh sausages, and he said it was easier with proper ones. I do think it was more a case of the chunky handles looked like ones he had when he was just starting to learn to use them so he didn’t want “baby things”. He was told to remember to make sure his hands were in the correct position – which he was shown, and then cutting would be much easier for him.
He then was shown an easier way to tie his shoe laces. When we have tried before, he has ended up saying his hands are sore from trying – never convinced if its a reason or an excuse. This way was much easier, and we will definitely be practicing with this – if he can master laces it will be so much easier to get shoes that will fit his ridiculously wide feet.
Then came buttons. Large ones he was fine with on a garment on the table in front of him, but as soon as it got to smaller ones he was fumbling. It was suggested a way to make it easier was to replace the tread with elastic so the button moves more to get it through the hole, so I might have to get Old person on a sewing task! Another idea was that he always did his buttons in front of a mirror so he could actually see what he was doing – painfully simple but something we had not thought to try!
He was then taken to the matted area to test his core strength, because of his clumsiness. His balance was dire – which I knew it would be. I did have to remind her it was just 8 weeks since his knee op as he looked in pain as he was asked to go onto all fours! It was suggested that he had additional sessions which are about core strengthening. I think it will be really good for him, so readily agreed to that. She had him trying to walk along a line on the floor, going toe to heel. It was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time as his feet were nowhere near the line however hard he tried!
They had seen enough, and decided to summarize what had been seen.
They said he needs to slow down when doing tasks – I didn’t laugh out loud at this but D doesn’t do slow, once his brain gets going, his body just has to keep up or we go into meltdown. Their reasoning is that if he thinks more about doing things correctly it will help his body know what it should be doing. Great theory which we will try to implement.
Then came the bomb shell. They think its important he learns to type as the more writing he does at school the more pain he will be in! I asked about exercises that might help strengthening his hands, and basically they said that just keep using them! We were given a pile of handouts about tasks and games that were good for honing fine motor skills, we will defiantly be having a go at some of them.
So how do I feel now. As usual, you come out of these thing feeling as if you are a failure as a parent. It is nobodies fault, just the nature of sessions where strangers are telling you what you should be doing with your child, or what you have been doing wrong! I do think its a positive getting the board to help with his writing – I did have a chuckle when thinking when I was at school, all desks were angled anyway! I am upset that they feel becoming keyboard confident is a priority because they feel he wont improve his hand strength. I think it is something we continue to work on in the home, and I will just keep making the play-doh for him to spend hours squeezing to try to strengthen those muscles. The core building sessions sound as if they will be good for him, and if he can strengthen his core it has to be good for his legs.
For now though, it’s another box ticked and we move on.