Sixteen-month-old Emmanuel has been having Occupational Therapy since he was two weeks old. But what is it? It’s a question his OT, Jess, gets asked all the time.
“When you say that you’re an Occupational Therapist, most people don’t really understand what that means but for those recovering from an illness or injury, it is an integral part of rehabilitation,” Occupational Therapist, Jessica Harris said.
“The core of occupational therapy is to promote a child or young person’s participation in their daily life. This mainly centres around facilitating learning and play to ensure kids can make the most of the skills they have and actively participate in everyday life.”
Occupational Therapy ranges from upper limb management (fine motor skills, splinting and fracture management), equipment prescription (fitting strollers, wheelchairs and shower chairs), pressure care management and developmental play.
For Emmanuel, this involves playtime sessions that specifically target his hands and feet, therapy to help his body positioning and implementing assistive technology to help Emmanuel sit upright in a safe and comfortable way.
Emmanuel was born with OTC Deficiency, a very rare genetic disorder that causes ammonia to build up to dangerously high levels in the blood. The toxicity of the ammonia led to Emmanuel suffering hyperammonemia and subsequently resulted in an acute brain injury and Cerebral Palsy. This has affected Emmanuel’s ability to talk, eat, sit and move on his own.
However, with the support of occupational therapy, Emmanuel’s family have noticed that he is able to more voluntarily move his limbs and is showing more interest in play time.
“The OT team have taught us all kinds of therapies that we can do at home and have given us the confidence to help Emmanuel in our daily life,” Emmanuel’s mum, Theresa, said.
“My four other children have become accustomed to using these therapies and it has also given them a sense that they are able to help their brother in their own way.”
Across Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, there are more than 4000 patients, like Emmanuel, who rely on Occupational Therapy to manage or improve their condition. This includes patients with brain injury, spinal cord injury, developmental delay, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, neuromuscular conditions as well as children having orthopaedic and cardiac surgeries.
“Being able to help children and young people with serious health conditions achieve their goals and increase their independence is the reason I do what I do,” Jessica said.
This week, 21 – 27 October, marks Occupational Therapy Week and is an opportunity to raise awareness about the important role Occupational Therapists play in helping children and young people live their most fulfilling lives.
“Occupational therapy has given us hope that one day Emmanuel will be able to do things independently and participate in community life,” Theresa said.