The Fremantle Language Development Centre has recognised the importance of motor development and self-regulation for children and understands that the impact of difficulties in these domains can have a significant effect on a child’s participation in the classroom and playground and can have an overall impact to the child’s learning outcomes.
The Fremantle Language Development Centre has an Occupational Therapist to provide Occupational Therapy services to the school community, relating to the domains of self-regulation and motor skills development. The focus of this service includes:
- Screening for new students
- Education – for families and teachers
- Targeted referral services – including assessment and consultation
- OT student program – to offer therapy support as required
Each child new to the Fremantle LDC will engage in a one to one screening assessment which provides insight to the student’s motor development and will assist in identifying students that may benefit from referral to an agency for services. Families and teachers will receive written reports on the child’s outcomes in the screening session.
Parents will be invited to an information session on what the screening tool assesses and why this is important in the school setting, where a range of resource information sheets will be available.
Occupational Therapy Screening Assessment – Parent Information Session (links to YouTube)
Planned education events will be held throughout the year for families and staff, covering a range of topics from sensory processing to fine motor skills. Several information sessions are available on YouTube, which discuss some of the programs that are being used at the Fremantle LDC.
Targeted Referral Services
Some children will already be receiving services from outside therapy agencies or may be on wait-list for Child Development Services. When teachers are seeking specific information or support regarding an individual student, they can refer that student to the OT for assessment and support. This may assist the teacher and family whilst the student is waiting to receive services or when other referrals and services are not in place. Most children are referred into the OT program as part of their IEP (Individual Education Plan) process, and this is discussed at the time with the family.
OT Student Program
Fremantle LDC hosts 12 final year Occupational Therapy students throughout the year from term 1 to term 4, with 3 students supporting the school every term. The OT students are involved in the screening assessment program, whole class programs for self-regulation and collaborate on other projects to develop resources for the school. As part of the service they can also provide direct therapy to the children that have been identified as needing support. Families are informed if their child will be engaging with an OT student and will receive information about their progress in the sessions.
AREAS OF INTEREST
A large component of the work of the OT in the school setting is on the students being able to self-regulate. There are significant links between sensory processing and self-regulation and through teacher guidance, classroom design and access to equipment and activities, children are better supported to be able to self-regulate.
All Fremantle LDC classrooms use the Alert Program® to assist in the development of the student’s self-regulation. The Alert Program® explicitly teaches children that their body has an engine, which can go high, low or just right. When our engines are “just right”, it is easier to control our emotions, behaviours and attention. The children learn that they can change their engine speed, through an “engine changer” which are the sensory systems in our body.
Self Regulation (links to YouTube)
Classrooms are equipped with visual supports that help the children understand the concept, as well as equipment that allows the children to “change their engine speed”. This may include wobble stools, standing work stations, air filled cushions or wheat packs. Below is a chart you can download and print at home to help reinforce the concept at home, as well as a video you can watch with your child that helps explain the concept in a video story format.
How Can I Change my Engine Speed? (links to YouTube)
How Is My Engine Running? (links to YouTube)
Teachers also engage in daily movement with the children and this is also seen in short bursts, often called “brain breaks”. It is important for all children to move regularly to keep their engine “just right”, which can help them make the most of their learning opportunities in class. Some examples of these movement breaks might be jumping like a kangaroo, yoga, dancing or “milkshake breathing”. Here are some link to some of these exercises you can do at home.
Cosmic Yoga (links to YouTube)
Brain Break (links to YouTube)
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (links to YouTube)
The Fremantle LDC is committed to addressing the individual learning needs of all of the students. As such the school has a “Dynamic Classroom” approach which can assist in supporting different learning styles. Dynamic classrooms allow for movement whilst working, which can greatly benefit a child’s self-regulation. Most classrooms that you visit at the school will have fewer desks than students, various seating and work options (standing, sitting, kneeling, wobble stools, laying down) and cosy retreat spaces for quiet break times. This approach is often referred to as ‘flexible seating’, and your child may even be asked where they feel they work best, so it ensures it is not a “one chair fits all”.
Motor skill development is critical for learning and general functional skill development. Being able to accurately control your body means you will more likely have success in tasks such as dressing, sitting on the mat, packing a lunchbox, or writing. Evidence also tells us that children who engage in more physical activity, are more likely to have improved physical health and better mental wellbeing, both now and into adulthood. Increased physical activity also improves attention and concentration as well as self-confidence.
Children who have difficulties with motor skills and coordination, may avoid physical activity because it is challenging for them. To support participation in physical activity, the Fremantle LDC aims to encourage motor skill development. Two key aspects of motor development include having adequate body awareness (knowing how all of your body parts are connected) and good core strength.
A program that the Fremantle LDC uses is the Animal Fun program, an evidence-based resource designed by Curtin University. Kindy and Pre-Primary teachers all have access to this program and use it as part of their motor program. This program targets areas of core strength and body awareness.
Animal Fun (links to Animal Fun website)
In order to develop the students motor skills, all classrooms in the Fremantle LDC engage in daily physical activity as well as core strength exercises and “brain breaks”. This helps the students achieve the recommendation set by the Australian Department of Health, which recommends 60 minutes of physical activity for children aged 5-12 years. The core strength exercises are “dead ant” and “superman”, which are demonstrated in the handout and video link here:
Core Strength (links to YouTube)
Many children may experience the complex task of learning how to write challenging. In order to support their development some consistent approaches are used, included the Peggy Lego, which teaches correct letter formation. Other programs for handwriting neatness may also be used by your classroom teachers so it would be beneficial to talk to them about the approach they use. The Cat writing approach is a simple way to help a child understand the concepts of writing on the line, sizing of letters and spacing between letters and words.
Links to YouTube Tutorials: