April is Occupational Therapy Month!

By: Maureen Karwowski, OT

Photo by Carl Jaloweic
Photo by Carl Jaloweic

I am so lucky to work in a profession that I feel so passionate about and enjoy so much.  Occupational therapists help people of all ages participate in the things they want and need to do.  Occupational therapists use everyday activities, a holistic and customized approach to treatment to assist children gain skills to become as independent as possible.  I see children of a variety of ages, and with a variety of challenges.

Here is what my clients and their parents told me occupational therapy is helping them to do:

  • I am learning to use my right hand better.  I learned how to put on my coat, pants, shoes and socks.  I am learning to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and carry a tray of food like in the school cafeteria.    Max, 14 years old.
  • I am learning to keep my body in the “green zone” so I don’t fall so much when I run around. Jack, 5 years old.
  • I am trying to get stronger in my arms so I can play games like 4 square, and climb the monkey bars during recess. I used to be afraid to do things where my feet were off the ground, like climb on the risers in music class.  I am not scared anymore.  Faith, 8 years old.IMG_0478-ANIMATION
  • OT is helping us figure out what will calm my daughter…she is very sensitive to noises, touch and is cautious with anything new. It is fun to see her personality come out now that she is getting more confident.  Mother of Abby, (4 years old).
  • My favorite game is “super hero training” where I practice climbing and jumping without falling and not too fast. I am working on my handwriting for school too.  Max, 6 years old.
  • In OT I work on jumping, swinging, and climbing. After that we sit at the table and work on buttons, and tying my shoes.  I want to tie my cleats for baseball.  Justin, 8 years old.
  • Andrew has been in OT since he was 2 years old. He is learning to engage with people better.  It has also helped him be less sensitive to sounds and textures.  The OT’s have worked with us on strategies for at home for so many things that were a struggle.   Haircuts, hair washing, bedtime, family parties, and church just to name a few.  Mother of Andrew, 12 years old. 
  • My daughter used to be on the go all the time before she was in OT. She was always moving around, climbing on chairs and jumping.  Going out in public was so stressful.  Now she is getting better at regulating herself.  I have learned what sensory input she needs every single day in order to be calm.  Mother of Rachel, (4 years old). 

Thank you for these great quotes!

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

Cheer Your Kid On with a Smile

As a client of Easter Seals and the Fox Valley Region, sometimes it can be hard to keep your spirits up. You go to therapy and the progress can seem really slow. It can be frustrating to go week after week not to see concrete progress. Parents have to be their child’s biggest cheerleaders. Here are a few tips to keep spirits up during therapy. Cheer


–         Acknowledge the little things such as a good step during walking if your child is in physical therapy.

–         Tell your child if they are close to reaching a goal.

–         Have the child relay what they did in therapy to another parent, a sibling, or another significant other in the child’s life.

–         You could make a fun progress chart at home and keep track of the progress they are making in therapy.

–         Have siblings or grandparents come in every once in a while and see how far the child has come. Grandparents in particular love bragging on grandchildren!

I recognize it is tough on parents too to see a difference when their child is in therapies week after week. Try to stay positive and remember that smiling at your child can make all the difference.

Headed to the Gym

Physical activity for people with disabilities is crucial. If we don’t participate in the proper amount of physical activity, our physical impairments could get worse. For me, the proper amount of physical activity is physical therapy twice a week and getting out of my chair as much as I can. I know this is incredibly important, however, I get distracted. I’ll make plans with friends ex: go shopping and it creates a distraction. Obviously, I can’t always be exercising or stretching; I would not have a social life or go to work, but I have to balance physical exercise with the demands of life.

National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability state:

“More recently, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provides science-based guidance to help individuals with disabilities aged 6 and older improve their health through appropriate physical activity. These benefits are even more important if you have a disability, since people with disabilities have a tendency to live less active lifestyles”.

This is a challenge that everybody deals with. How much do I work out? What exercise classes are best? We all struggle with balance. How many hours of therapy give my child a life and also maximizes independence? It’s a hard question that I don’t have the answer to.

 However, some people commit their life’s work to physical fitness. The community of Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region would think of our wonderful physical therapists as people who dedicate their lives to physical fitness and we do appreciate them. However, some people with disabilities decide to shatter stereotypes in the world of physical fitness. Craig Koonce, a power lifter who has Cerebral Palsy does that every day. He defies the odds in a gym. Koonce goes to the gym everyday to prepare for weight lifting competitions. He won state in Pennsylvania  in 2010 for power lifting and he went on to nationals.  He dreams of starting a center that takes holistic approaches for both disabled and able-bodied individuals. Check out his story here.

We can’t all be like Craig. I could never spend that many hours in a gym. That amount of physical activity does not appeal to me. Personally, I set aside certain parts of the day to have my personal care attendants get me out of my chair. It can be as simple as laying on the couch and watching my favorite TV show or after work, I usually stand with an attendant for a good ten minutes. USA Today states, “If you are in a negative-thinking cycle for more than 10 minutes, stop thinking and start moving. Move your body every hour; sitting saps motivation”. The magazine also says, building incentives and giving yourself a rest day is a good way to keep working out.

You can set your own regime and choose your own activities but it’s important to remember that physical activity is crucial when you have a disability. Plus, the holidays are practically here…if you exercise, you won’t feel as bad when you eat all those holiday goodies!

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