Occupational Therapy

Evidence indicates that children with language impairment often experience difficulties with motor coordination and self-regulation. The role of a Speech and Language Therapist for these children is critical. However, Occupational Therapy (OT) can also provide support for these areas that impact on classroom performance.

The Fremantle Language Development Centre (LDC) utilises the services of a consultant OT to support teachers to assist in student participation and enhance their engagement with classroom programs. This can include teacher training, provision of resources, assessment and referral of children and whole school programming.

The OT support at the Fremantle LDC does not replace an OT service. Families are encouraged to maintain contact with their OT if they are accessing services or have been recommended to seek the support of an external Occupational Therapist. Ways the OT program supports the students and teachers at the Fremantle LDC include:

Alert Program

This school based program is embedded into the classes of the Fremantle LDC. The Alert program was designed by OTs for teachers to use within the classroom and has an excellent evidence base due to recent research by the Telethon Kids Institute.   The foundations of the program are in sensory processing which aims to equip children with strategies to assist in their self-regulation. We encourage students to communicate how their engine is running and encourage them to find an engine changer to help their engine run “just right”. A key factor is the use of consistent language and visual supports as well as access to sensory items in the classroom. To find out more information about the Alert Program® visit www.alertprogram.com  or this summary handout Alert Program® Info Sheet

Dynamic Classroom Design

Our classrooms are designed in a way so children engage in less sitting. When children remain in a static seated posture this directly impacts on attention and concentration and ability to manage emotions and behaviours. Students have the opportunity to:

  • Sit on a variety of options including air filled cushions, wobble stools, fit balls, stools and chairs
  • Stand at a table or bench to complete work
  • Lay on the floor to complete work
  • Move in the classroom when they feel they need to. We aim to prevent this need to move by implementing regular brain breaks throughout the learning session.

Physical Activity Guidelines (Department of Health)

We realise the importance of movement in helping children to self-regulate. We aim to help children meet these guidelines through daily physical fitness and looking for opportunities to increase movement, such as during classroom transitions. Frequent “brain breaks” are encouraged to ensure the children are engaged and focused. We realise that families play a vital role in making sure their children get enough physical activity every day. A good source of information about the important role physical education can play in schools can be found here: Physical Activity in Schools

AREAS OF INTEREST

Self-Regulation

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.

What is Sensory Processing

Alert Program®

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.

Engine Changers

How’s Your Engine?

Sensory Equipment

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.

Take that Brain Break!

Cosmic Yoga (links to YouTube)

Brain Break (links to YouTube)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (links to YouTube)

DYNAMIC CLASSROOMS

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”.

Dynamic Classrooms

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

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.

Why Is Being Active So Important

Motor Skills

Heavy Work Activities

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.

Animal Fun

This evidence-based resource developed by Curtin University is designed to be facilitated by teachers in early childhood. It is a targeted movement program that focuses on basic motor skills and is especially useful when children have difficulty participating in Fundamental Movement skills and Physical Education. This is initially used as a motor-based program for kindy and pre-primary and then used as transition exercises in year one and up. You can find out more information here: Animal Fun

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)

Core Strength Postures

WRITING

The Peggy Lego prewriting program is introduced in kindy and is used all the way through to year 3 to support the development of letter formation. The CAT writing approach is also used to support handwriting legibility. You can find out more information about our handwriting support here: www.lil-peeps.com.au/handwriting

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:

Handwriting Tutorial

Peggy Lego Tutorial

Cat Writing Tutorial

Further information:

Peggy Lego Pre Writing Patterns

Peggy Lego Magic Words – Cues for Writing Letters

Cat Writing Technique

It is estimated that up to 25% of children find the task of handwriting challenging. By putting together all of these aspects from the beginning and teaching our children how to use their muscles and write letters it can increase their success with handwriting as they progress through their learning. Equipping children from an early age with the language and strategies to help develop their self-regulation can also have a long-term positive impact. These strategies are safe to use in all classrooms, and can support the needs of all children, not just the children from the Fremantle Language Development Centre.