Occupational Therapy and the Sensory Gym
The sensory gym aids to fulfill students sensory seeking behavior that can interfere with their academic readiness during the school day. Students safely engage with the equipment as therapists lead them through exercises to help them self regulate and become more aware of their body in space and their surroundings.
Occupational therapy offers a holistic approach to helping students in all grade levels to access all aspects of the school/learning environment. A main focus is to ensure a match between a student’s abilities and the expectations placed on the student in school. Children with special needs can have difficulty with one or more of the following:
- Filtering out irrelevant sensory stimuli to focus on classroom lessons
- Cognition: problem-solving, attention, processing speed, memory, comprehension
- Coordinating eyes with hands to copy from the blackboard, catch and throw a ball, etc.
- Fine motor skills: handwriting, typing on the keyboard, opening a milk carton
- Gross motor skills: large muscles used for running, jumping, kicking
- Grasping and manipulate school tools such as pencils, scissors, rulers
- Using a fork, spoon and knife independently, tying shoes
- Using and maintaining appropriate hygiene throughout various environments, such as the lunchroom
- Interacting and engaging with peers/others in an age appropriate manner, reading social cues, asserting oneself, following appropriate social norms (holding the door for others, making eye contact, etc.)
- Time management skills and organizational skills (changing for gym in a timely manner, organizing school work and materials)
- Transitioning between classes effectively and maneuvering smoothly through the school environment
- Maintaining an alert body posture appropriate for tasks such as writing
- Managing inattention and impulses to ensure participation in all school experiences
Occupational therapists observe a student engaging in an activity and provide strategies to facilitate the student’s full participation in each aspect of school. Assistive technology can be attained to support student success if needed, and occupational therapists are able to reduce barriers (uncomfortable seating, grapho-motor difficulties) that limit student participation. As the student enters high school, vocational skills and college preparation become an additional focus during occupational therapy sessions.
The Child School/Legacy High School has a unique relationship with Columbia University’s graduate program in occupational therapy. For the past few years, high school students have been participating in a social skills program run by licensed occupational therapists and graduate students from Columbia. In the social skills program, students address reading and displaying facial expressions and body language, assertiveness, and other aspects of appropriate social engagement. In addition, each summer, occupational therapy graduate students complete an internship at Legacy High School, offering exciting and beneficial groups to interested students, including: Yoga/Tai Chi, music and movement, blogging and podcasting, and various other social and cognitive groups.