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FAQs About Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a health profession that assists people with all forms of disability – physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, or developmental, to function as independently and safely as possible in all life roles. Occupational therapists strive to assist people to resume or maintain participation in tasks that they consider meaningful under the domains of personal care, productivity and leisure.

Our treatment is often in the form of direct client intervention at home, work or school. We provide education, creative solutions to functional problems, equipment, and hands on treatment to rectify the impact of physical, cognitive or emotional disability in all environments.  These videos about OT also well conceptualize and explain what we do and how we help!

In Ontario, we are regulated by the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario which regulates our practice requirements to ensure we are fulfilling our professional duties and are adhering to our required code of conduct.

Occupational and physical therapists have a similar focus when treating clients – to help people resume functional life considering a disability. However, while physical therapists help people to RECOVER from their disability, occupational therapists help people to LIVE with their disability (whether permanent or temporary). Some clients may have an injury (e.g. a sprained ankle) that is painful but does not limit them from functioning in their required life roles. In this case they would only require physical therapy to decrease pain and increase strength in the injured joint. On the other hand, while some people may have recovered physically from an injury, they may not have found a way to function optimally with the ongoing problem. In this case, occupational therapy could help. However, in most cases people benefit from a combined program including both physical and occupational therapy, and the two professions collaborate well in providing optimal client care.

OT services can be obtained both publically (government services) and privately (i.e. us!).  Feel free to call us and we will help you to determine if you have funding available for occupational therapy.

However, additional information about funding is as follows:

If you are hospitalized as a result of an illness or injury and this causes a resulting disability, you will likely be referred to an occupational therapist while in hospital. This person will clearly explain their role and will work with your overall rehabilitation team in order to facilitate your discharge. Should you continue to require occupational therapy once discharged, your hospital therapist will likely arrange these services through the local Community Care Access Centre (or CCAC) (should no other funding sources be applicable). Alternatively, if you feel that you or a relative require occupational therapy services, you can self-refer to your local CCAC or can discuss your needs with your doctor.

The Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) will provide community-based occupational therapy services, however the wait is long and the services in many regions are limited. If you are receiving Ontario Disability Support Pension (ODSP), often they will fund occupational therapy services to prescribe equipment that is available through ODSP and the Assistive Devices Program (ADP). Entwistle Power can provide privately funded ODSP occupational therapy assessments if waiting for the CCAC is not optimal. ADP is a program that provides 75% funding for some equipment for people that qualify. To qualify, you need to be assessed by an occupational therapist and we provide these services privately if public funding for the same is not available. People may also be able to access occupational therapy through the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) if applicable.

For children, many regions have publicly funded pediatric programs with therapists trained to provide developmental or rehabilitation services, or school support. You will need to ask your doctor or pediatrician about the services available in your area.  Or, see below for information about other forms of funding support for pediatric therapy.

If you are injured at work, in a car accident, or are off-work because of a disability, you may have private funding for occupational therapy through an insurance company. In that case, call your insurer, or speak to a lawyer if you need clarification on the services available to you.  Or, call us and we can help you to determine if there is funding, and how you might be able to access it.

If you are injured at work or in a motor vehicle accident then you may be referred to an occupational therapist by way of third party funding (auto insurance or WSIB). In this case, the occupational therapist typically does not work for the funding source, but rather assists the funding source to identify your rehabilitation needs to help you return to function within your home, workplace, and community.

If you are a parent who has a child with a disability, your family doctor or pediatrician will likely refer your child to a local pediatric rehabilitation clinic for occupational therapy assessment and treatment. In this case, the occupational therapist will work with your child in order to assist them to achieve developmental milestones, to be able to explore their environment through play, to prescribe equipment to enhance function, and to assist your child to enter and succeed in school. The therapist will also ensure that you as a parent are adjusting to and managing your demands as the caregiver of your child with unique needs.

Of course, as our public health system is not perfect, many people that need occupational therapy are not able to access this through public means. In this case, you are able to self-refer to a private occupational therapist that will bill you directly for their services. Entwistle Power OT offers such services.

Like with any healthcare professional, you have the right to choose your provider. If you have a therapist that you are not happy with, try approaching them first and explaining to them how you are feeling with respect to their services. If you are not comfortable with this, or are unhappy with their response, try approaching their direct superior or the owner of the company they work for to ask for a change in service provider. While we try to work well with everyone, at times it just makes sense to move to another clinician. As health professionals we are trained to accept this and no clinician should make you feel bad or guilty for wanting a change.

If you feel that any occupational therapist you have been working with has behaved inappropriately, unethically, or has put you at risk of harm, consider contacting our College (www.coto.org) to file a complaint. If you are looking to make a change in your service provider, please give us a call and we’ll let you know if we can help.

How Autism Can Impact Function

Autism is a spectrum disorder in that symptoms can range from mild to severe. Children with autism can have a diverse range of strengths and challenges that may impact how they function and develop. Parents and teachers may notice the following:

Fine & Gross Motor Skill Development: challenges with acquiring and performing fine and gross motor skills such as difficulty with: learning to draw and print, clothing fastenings (buttons, zippers, snaps, shoe laces, etc), walking, running, jumping, climbing, and playing sports.

Sensory Processing Issues: differences in the way the child experiences, integrates, and responds to sensation for example: sensitivity to certain sounds, dislikes tags or certain fabrics against skin, avoids touch, constantly in motion, seeks deep pressure or small spaces, “stimming”, or “shutting down”.

Self-Regulation: difficulty maintaining a calm and alert state of arousal throughout the day such as: maintaining attention to task, problem solving, impulse control, big reactions or tantrums to small problems, experiencing emotional extremes throughout the day, very lethargic or extremely active or fluctuates between these.

Social Skill Development: difficulty learning how or being motivated to initiate and maintain social interactions, for example: difficulty with picking up on non-verbal social cues, facial expressions, empathy, cooperative play, functional play skills, and communication skills.

The above factors may influence a child’s ability to develop independence and self-esteem and can impact their independence with daily tasks such as: getting dressed, brushing teeth, having a bath, self-feeding, toileting, completing school work, dealing with changes or transitions, being part of the group, acceptable behaviour, making a snack/meal, tidying up, playing a game, or going to a grocery store or shopping mall.

How We Can Help

Occupational Therapists with specialized training and experience in working with children with autism can provide a variety of services to a child and their family. Since each child is unique, discussion with parents, teachers, and the child (if appropriate) is necessary to help identify functional areas of concern and to guide the assessment process. An assessment is used to gain an understanding the underlying factors that are contributing to the child’s functional difficulties, their developmental stage, and works to develop strategies to help the child become more successful when engaging in daily activities. As no child is the same, the treatment plan should be individualized based on the assessment results. Our treatment can involve direct time with the child, home programming, consultation to school (if appropriate), and parent/family education. Group programs may be appropriate as well.

When Should I Consider Occupational Therapy?

It is never too early or too late to have an Occupational Therapist assess areas of concern. Research tells us that Early Intervention is best for children with autism. However, as children grow and develop, their needs can change and there is always potential for improvement. An Occupational Therapist can help at any stage of development.

How Will My Child Benefit?

As Occupational Therapists, we strive for improved health and well-being for each child and family by building functional independence and meaningful engagement in daily life. A child and family receiving occupational therapy should see improvements with:

  • Establishing and prioritizing functional goals.
  • Provision of treatment strategies to improve goal areas at home and school.
  • Improved skill development.
  • Increased functional independence with daily tasks.
  • Improved understanding of factors contributing to difficulties.

As a parent or teacher it is difficult to watch a child struggle with printing because printing is such an essential activity in the daily life of school age children. Printing success is strongly correlated with academic success as printing is one of the main methods whereby students express their level of knowledge to their teacher. Some signs that a child may be struggling with printing include:

  • Expression of frustration when printing
  • Refusal to print
  • Awkward pencil grasp
  • Awkward letter formation
  • Reversal of letters and numbers
  • Slower printing speed than peers
  • Illegible printing
So What Causes Printing Problems?

Each child’s printing difficulties are unique. Some causes of printing problems include:

  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, gross motor development, visual perception, visual-motor integration (hand-eye coordination), attention or any combination of these.
  • Physical impairment such as Cerebral Palsy, hand tremors, low muscle tone, Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) etc. that impact the physical process of printing.
  • Learning disability, Non-Verbal Learning disability, or other developmental delay that impact the cognitive and perceptual demands of printing.
  • Not enough instruction or practice in printing skills.
How OT’s Help

Occupational Therapists with specialized training and experience in the area of printing can provide a thorough structured assessment to determine what underlying skills are impacting a child’s ability to print. The OT can then create an individualized treatment plan for the child based on his or her unique assessment results. Treatment involves consecutive OT sessions in addition to home practice.

When Should I Consider OT?

Pre-Printing and Early Printing Skills: Children can be assessed for printing difficulties as early as Junior Kindergarten (or just prior to entering JK). At this young age the Occupational Therapist would look at the development of the underlying skills needed for printing (ex. fine motor, visual-perceptual skills etc.) and pre-printing skills which include the development of pencil grasp and the ability to draw the ‘pre-printing shapes’ (i.e., shapes that mimic the shape of letters such as square, triangle, and circle). Assessment and treatment of pre-printing skills can be useful in preventing future printing problems.

Primary School Age (Grades 1 to 3): At the beginning of grade one and throughout the primary years at school printing demands increase significantly for children. This is an ideal time to have printing skills assessed and treated if you notice that your child is struggling with printing.

Beyond Primary Age (Grades 4+): Older children who are in the junior, intermediate, and high school grades can also be assessed and treated for printing difficulties. However, as children get older they begin to develop printing habits that are more difficult to change. Treatment for older children will include working more on specific ‘bad habits’ to improve the overall quality and speed of printing. As well, alternative strategies such as the use of technology for written output can be explored with the OT.

How Will My Child Benefit?
  • Improved confidence
  • Improved ability to control a pencil
  • Increased desire to use printing as a means of communication at school and at home
  • Improved printing speed (able to keep up with classroom work and peers more easily)
  • Improved printing legibility (easier for everyone to read)
  • Improved ability to get ideas across to others (including the teacher) through printing or through the use of assistive technology

Raising children with special needs can be costly when parents are required to turn to private therapy in order to bypass the long wait lists and scarce availability of government funded programs.

So where can parents turn for financial support to help pay for costs related to therapy, assistive devices, and activities? The following is a list of private and public funding sources that are available for children with special needs living in Ontario:

Private Charities
Ability Gives

Contributes to life changing experiences in children with disabilities by helping their families obtain much-needed medical devices & mobility aids.
http://abilitygives.org

The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada

A national, non-profit organization dedicated to fulfilling a favorite wish for children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.
http://www.childrenswish.ca

Kids Life Line

This service is offered through A Children’s Voice Foundation, and offers a onetime fulfillment of a necessary product or service that will enhance a child’s quality of life and is not otherwise provided by healthcare plans, levels of government or other organizations.
http://www.acvf.ca/index.php/our-programs/kids-life-line

Deeds & Dreams

Deeds & Dreams is a charity where 90% of all funds go directly toward delivering a child’s special dream.
http://deedsanddreams.com/index.html

Give A Miracle A Chance (G.A.M.E)

This charity supports children living with Cerebral Palsy. The charity supports children with independent therapies and treatments and provides life management counselling, therapy programs and other support services to enable children to become more independent in their lives and in the community.
http://giveamiracleachance.com

The Easter Seal Society, Ontario

Easter Seals Ontario provides programs and services to children and youth with physical disabilities across Ontario to help them achieve greater independence, accessibility and integration.
http://www.easterseals.org

The Golden Griddle Children’s Charities

Grants wishes to children with disabilities and illnesses. The most popular wish that is granted is a trip to Florida.
http://www.goldengriddleinc.com

Jennifer Ashleigh Foundation

Assists seriously ill children and their families with special treatment needs, medical expenses, and financial assistance in times of need.
http://www.jenash.org

Make A Wish Foundation of Canada

Along with the national office, seven independent regional chapters grant magical wishes to children in need from coast-to-coast.
http://makeawish.ca

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Provide a wide range of services, resources and programs for individuals with CP and their families as well as professional organizations. These services can range from funding for equipment, education and recreation to housing and life planning.
http://www.ofcp.ca

Ontario March of Dimes Home and Vehicle Modification Program

Ontario March of Dimes’ Home & Vehicle Modification® Program provides funding for basic home and/or vehicle modifications. The program is intended to assist permanent Ontario residents with a substantial impairment expected to last one year or more.
http://www.marchofdimes.ca

President’s Choice Children’s Charity

Supports children with disabilities by providing financial grants for essential specialized equipment and essential therapies.
http://www.presidentschoice.ca

Sunshine Dreams For Kids

The Sunshine Foundation is a charity that provides individual dreams to children with severe physical disabilities as well as life-threatening illnesses.
http://www.sunshine.ca

Government Services and Programs
Assistive Devices Program

Provides support and funding and access to personalized assistive devices to residents of Ontario.
http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/adp/default.aspx

Special Services at Home

The Special Services at Home program helps families who are caring for a child with a developmental or physical disability.
http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/specialneeds/specialservices/index.aspx

Disability Tax Credit

A non-refundable tax credit that a person with a disability can claim to reduce the amount of income tax he or she has to pay in a year. This amount includes a supplement for people less than 18 years of age at the end of the year.
http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/disability

Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities

Helps parents with some of the extra costs of caring for a child who has a severe disability.
http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/specialneeds/disabilities/index.aspx

Homeowner Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program

This fund offers financial assistance to low-income homeowners for mandatory home repairs that will preserve the quality of affordable housing. The program helps people who live in substandard dwellings and cannot afford to pay for necessary repairs to their home.
http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/prfinas/prfinas_001.cfm

Incontinence Supplies Grant

This program is for children and youth between the ages of 3 to 18 years with chronic disabilities that result in irreversible incontinence or retention problems lasting longer than six months and requiring the use of incontinence supplies. The grant is a contribution to the cost of supplies.
http://www.easterseals.org/services/incontinence-supplies-grant

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.
Mother Teresa