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Featuring articles from our principal Occupational Therapist, Dr Nicole Grant, members of the therapy team, and guest posts from members of our community.  

Low Muscle Tone and Poor Attention - A Case Study

A young boy, 4 years of age, was brought to me for assessment about 9 years ago. He had not been diagnosed with any particular disorder, but was easily distracted and found it difficult to pay attention to the task at hand. He had been seeing a Speech Therapist for some time due to a slight delay in his speech development and he dribbled.

The boy's mum was mostly concerned that he would not be able to concentrate in class when he started prep next year. She wondered what she could do to help him at home, in readiness for school.

I gave the child some activities to complete and observed that he fidgeted in his chair, and was easily distracted, and yes - had difficulty paying attention. One of the first things I noticed was that when needing to apply force or pressure, e.g to mould playdough, he would move to position himself over the table to use all his strength, rather than relying on his hand strength alone. When I asked him to throw a ring or ball, he needed to use two hands to get any sort of distance. Throughout the assessment I asked the boy to complete desk-based tasks that assessed things like posture, attention, and fine-motor skills, and more active tasks that assessed his balance, coordination and proprioception.

During the assessment, the 4-year-old managed to respond to multi-step directions, and complete age appropriate puzzles and games. I found that when he began to lose focus and become distracted, his posture also changed and he would recruit compensatory muscle groups to move or exert force on an object. I asked this child if he ever got tired in the neck, back, arms or legs when sitting for a long time. He thought for a second then answered "Yes. Sometimes my elbows hurt." His mum hadn't heard this before and wasn't sure what he meant by this.

By the end of the assessment, it had become apparent that the attention difficulties experienced by this boy were more likely due to low tone, than because of any cognitive or intellectual dysfunction.

Low tone or hypotonia is explained well in Wikipedia:

"Hypotonia is a disorder that causes low muscle tone (the amount of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle), often involving reduced muscle strength. Hypotonia is not a specific medical disorder, but a potential manifestation of many different diseases and disorders that affect motor nerve control by the brain or muscle strength".

I recommended that the child engage in physical activities that promote muscle strength, balance and coordination, like climbing, running, and bike riding. He was already taking swimming lessons and going to structured gym classes, so he was already on his way.

With regards to desk-based work, I suggested that the boy be given a seat and chair that was appropriate for his size and that enabled him to sit with his feet flat on the floor and his back well supported. When performing desk-based tasks, it was probable that the child would become easily fatigued and possibly develop joint or muscle pain. He needed to be given the opportunity to stretch and change postures frequently.

With these strategies in place, and ongoing review of his progress and awareness of his needs, the 4-year-old boy should have no difficulty keeping up with his peers on commencing prep.

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Animal Assisted Therapy

Director Nicole reflects on her dream to become an Animal Assisted Therapist....

I've always been an animal lover with a keen interest in Animal Assisted Therapy. Following my graduation as an Occupational Therapist in 2002 I was keen to undertake a research project exploring the benefits of Pet Therapy, and even had lined up a supervisor at Latrobe University, however I needed to prioritise full time employment.

My interest was again piqued a few years later in 2009, when my daughter's swimming instructor took temporary ownership of a Guide Dog puppy in training. The little pup came along to the pool and I was fortunate enough to get a cuddle. I must have been besotted, as I wrote about the experience in a blog post on another forum at the time. 

Guide Dogs are well known to the general community, and most people are aware that these dogs are great companions for people who have a visual impairment. The many other benefits of dog ownership and the use of dogs in therapeutic situations, are not as well known.

Most dog owners will tell you that their pets are great company, good for keeping away unwanted guests, great at eating food thrown on the floor, and provide motivation for getting some exercise. These benefits are fairly obvious. What you may not realise, is that there are also health benefits to dog ownership. There has been some excellent research conducted by psychologists and other health professionals, that has found that pets can improve your mood and help depression and loneliness, reduce stress and lower blood pressure, and promote a healthier lifestyle.

Because of these benefits, dogs have been introduced into therapeutic situations. They can be used to provide motivation for children with movement difficulties, or act as a calming influence for people who may have an anxiety disorder. Read this abstract from an article to find out how a dog helped a child with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In addition to being used in therapy settings, (just like Darcy and I!) dogs have also been trained as Assistance Dogs. These animals are able to help people who have a disability that prevents them from independently completing some tasks such as opening doors and retrieving items.

If you are interested in reading more, or in helping to support one of these fantastic causes, please click on these links:

Delta Society Australia

Smart Pups

Assistance Dogs

Guide Dogs - Pets as Therapy Program

Interact Therapy Dog Program

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Darcy and Nicole graduate as an Animal Assisted Therapy team (2016)

I'll always remember my first

Director Nicole Grant reflects on her first client back in 2002.......

I remember his name, where he worked, and where he lived. I will never forget, because he was my first.

My first client.

He was referred to me for help returning to work after severing several tendons in his dominant hand. He was a carpenter, and this was a devastating injury. My job was to coordinate his return to work by liaising with his doctor, employer and insurer. I was to monitor his progress while he was treated and undergoing physical therapy, then at a time deemed appropriate by all involved, put together a graded return to work plan. I needed to identify suitable duties - duties that could be undertaken at his level of capacity (not much), and if no duties were available (there wasn't), find him a host employer who could give him some work to do while he was recovering.

I loved working with this carpenter. He had a fascinating injury and I loved following his treatment and progress with therapy. He was hopeless at turning up to therapy and gym appointments, and had absolutely no interest in returning to work as a carpenter. He wanted to use this 'opportunity' to move into a supervisory role. During the time I worked with him, I discovered more about his life beyond his injury e.g. he had received his injury falling through a glass door while drunk, and he was going through a messy relationship breakup.

Here's why I loved working with this guy. It's because I learned so much about all the additional complexities of being an OT with this one case - more than I could ever have in 6 years of attending university. I learned that being an OT is about the bigger picture, and about knowing all of the pieces of the puzzle in order to get an outcome. It's about using your knowledge of injuries, treatment protocols, and case management, to work towards an outcome that will hopefully benefit the client. But that this knowledge alone is not enough, and sometimes, success is out of your reach because of all of the other things going on in that person's life.

I didn't help him get back to work, because he was a long term case and I left town. I often think of the carpenter, and hope he got better. I often wonder if I would have more success with him now that I have so much more experience? If only I knew then, that his case would be one of the easier ones!

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Great places to take your children with special needs in Brisbane

Great places to take your children with special needs in Brisbane

Brisbane is a city with something for everyone. Bordered by bays and bush, and being a rapidly growing capital city, we really do have a great range of options for entertainment and exploration.

As kids with special needs tend to have vastly differing needs, before embarking on an outing it’s best to consider a few things:

1.    Firstly, what are my child’s interests. What does he or she find fun and exciting?

2.    Who is coming with us. What will I need to take?

3.    Can we get help if we need? How easy will it be to return home or find medical care, or even take time out if needed?

4.    If my child has limited mobility, what access is available for wheelchairs and other mobility aids?

5.    Am I eligible for a discount on entry or are there any special allowances for my child that may give us a better experience?

6.    What is the best time of day or day of the week to go? Do I need to worry about crowds or noise?

Parks

There are quite a few parks out there that have much to offer kids with special needs. A little bit out of the way, but nice for a day trip is Queens Park in Ipswich. Particularly great for kids with limited mobility, the park’s café and amenities all have wheelchair access, and a liberty swing has been installed also for use with wheelchairs. Other parks with liberty swings can be found here -

http://www.libertyswing.com.au/index.php/home/find-a-swing-near-you.html

 Closer to the CBD is Hawthorne Park on Riding Road. This is a great little playground for kids who tend to attempt escape. It is fully fenced, shaded, and is well-padded for those kids that are a little accident-prone. There are a few other fenced playgrounds around, offering a low-risk play experience for young kids.

Cultural Centre

In South Brisbane, there is a line up of some of the best experiences for kids – and they’re free. A stroll or zip around the Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Museum can be a great experience for budding artists or curious kids. A lesser-known gem in this part of the city, is The Corner, on the ground floor of the State Library. Suitable for preschool aged kids and below, The Corner is a quiet play area often set up with dress-ups, books, craft, computers, imaginative play and construction toys to keep the kids busy. It’s cool and quiet, and worth a visit if you are in the area.

 Pools and Water Play

Swimming and water play is a big part of our lifestyle as Queenslanders, as evidenced by the number of pools and water play places dotted around our capital city. Some kids prefer to be fully immersed, having a paddle or a kick around, while others just like to be near water – feeling the splashes or smelling the saltiness of the sea. Water is a sensory experience. It can be calming or exciting, depending on your child and their particular preferences. Knowing what your child enjoys is important before ‘throwing them in the deep end’. Luckily, we have lots of options in Brisbane to help kids with special needs benefit from water play.

Many pools, like The Colmslie Pool in Morningside have disability access and offer hydrotherapy, swimming lessons or free play. Alternatively, on Wynnum Esplanade you can find a water park, which allows kids to run in and out of the water fountains or play on the equipment nearby. On the north side, Redcliffe Lagoon also has a water park, which may be preferable for those kids who don’t like to enter water, but like to feel water on their skin.

All throughout the year, events for children with special needs and disabilities are advertised, and can be found on websites such as What's on 4 Kids and Families Magazine - Brisbane.

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Activities for kids with autism in Brisbane

Activities for kids with autism in Brisbane

Autism Spectrum Disorder or autism, is increasingly in the spotlight due to media reports of increased prevalence rates and the never-ending search for causes and cures. Parents of kids with autism can feel limited by options for activities as a result of their child’s need for strict routine, inability to cope with crowds, noise or other sensory input, and difficult behaviours which can be more difficult to manage in public.

Children with autism however, can benefit from a range of activities and should have the opportunity to enjoy participating in the many activities available to kids in Brisbane. The key to getting out and about with kids on the spectrum is a little bit of forward planning.

When preparing your child with autism for a new adventure, consider the following:

1.    Start with activities that are largely predictable, such as a train ride on a familiar route or a walk along a road visited many times before. Discuss your plan to alter the route or catch a later train prior to doing so.  

2.    Prepare to be flexible. You may need to leave a place or event before it’s finished if a meltdown is imminent. Try again another time. The next time may be different.

3.    Try to plan activities around what is relevant to your child and incorporate special interests and hobbies, rather than what you think kids his/ her age should be interested in.

4.     Plan your day and include your child in the planning. Preparation may include showing your child photos of the place you are visiting, writing a schedule of your day together, packing a bag together of all the things you might need.

5.     In your bag, pack pen and paper for you or your child to write instructions or draw pictures for non-verbal or pre-reading kids. For sensory challenged kids, you may want to include earplugs, sunglasses, an iPod and headphones, fidget toys and other items that calm or divert attention.

One of the great things about living in Brisbane is that there are plenty of options for kids with autism and quite a few agencies that offer support to parents wanting to help their child participate.

PlayConnect Playgroups

Most mainstream playgroups and mums groups are very welcoming of families who have children on the spectrum, however Playgroup Australia run playgroups especially for kids with autism. You can find one by clicking here - http://www.playgroupaustralia.com.au/index.cfm?objectid=F85EF1BC-0BB9-CA13-B8D98FA6AE3E2830.

 Public Transport

Many kids with ASD love public transport. Often a train, bus or ferry ride can be an outing in itself! Try short trips first to gauge your child’s enjoyment, before embarking on lengthier trips. Look at maps, plan your route, count the stops to your destination, listen to the engine or feel the vibration under your feet. Remember that kids with autism often see and feel the world in a different way. Use these trips as a chance to see the world through their eyes.

ASD Kidz movie days

ASD Kidz is a support group for families who have children with autism. Every few months they organise an autism friendly movie day, which means that kids on the spectrum are free to move about, stim, and enjoy the movie in a judgment-free environment. Visit their Facebook page for more information - https://www.facebook.com/pages/ASD-Kidz-Familyz-Inc/163088713743185

 

 

Experience Music

Music is enjoyable for most kids, and participating in music groups can be both beneficial and enjoyable for kids with ASD. The evidence supporting Music Therapy as an effective treatment option for autism is primarily anecdotal, however many kids love participating. Informal music groups can be equally fun, and may include singing and/ or using instruments. Either search for a therapist if specifically seeking Music Therapy or try going along to one of the Queensland Orchestra’s Kiddies Cushion Concerts. 

 Visit an Indoor Play Centre

For those kids who just love to run and bounce and climb, consider going to an indoor play centre. Choose a time that’s likely to be less crowded, and go for it. There are indoor play centres located all around Brisbane. If you are unsure if this is the place for your child, consider ringing ahead first. Find out if they can make specific recommendations about how to make the visit more enjoyable for you and your child.

 

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5 things your child should know before starting school (they might not be what you think!)

It’s that time of year again when many parents of pre-schoolers are preparing themselves and their little ones to start Prep.  It can be a time of trepidation, fear and excitement in equal measures for all involved. For first time Prep parents there is so much to think about. The move from childcare, kindy or preschool is enormous. All of a sudden, your child knows everyone, to suddenly knowing only a handful of kids, or worse – no one. Their routine (and yours) will change dramatically. They will be expected to follow school rules, comply, and adhere to the status quo. For our free-spirited little ones, this can all be a huge ask. Furthermore, many parents worry if their kids are truly ready. Are they ready to learn, and is academic success within their reach? In my occupational therapy clinical practice, I often see children whose parents are concerned that at the age of four, their son or daughter is still using a cylindrical grasp, or is writing the letter C backward. They worry that their kids are going to struggle once school begins. These are common fears, however you may be surprised to know that academic success depends upon far more than being able to recite and write the alphabet.

Before kids are ready to learn, there’s a few other skills they need to master first. You may be surprised to find that the skills I most value for school readiness, are not necessarily related obviously to academic performance. For a child to be ready to learn, they need to be confident and relaxed, mentally prepared, and comfortable. So how do we ensure our kids are in the right frame of mind, and able to independently achieve these things on a day to day basis?

Here’s 5 things that your child should know before starting school:

1.    Can they go to the toilet by themselves?

Your child may have been toilet trained for 3 years, but that’s not what I mean. Starting school often means having a uniform to wear. Some Preppies will have zips, buttons or other fasteners to contend with in order to independently adjust their clothing for toileting. If your little one is not confident with adjusting their clothing, they may hold on all day (which is very uncomfortable) or even have an accident. An anxious or uncomfortable child does not make for a happy learner.

2.     Can they open and close a lunchbox lid, and open food packets, yoghurt lids, open a popper straw etc.?

At pre-school, your child will probably have ready access to an attentive grown-up to help them get to their food. At school, the ratios are much higher, meaning that they may not get the help they need. They may also be afraid to ask! If your child struggles with their lunch, they may take longer to eat and miss out on lunch, or worse, avoid eating altogether. A hungry or upset child is not going to be in the right frame of mind for schoolwork.

3.    Can your child ask for help?

Yelling for Mum at home from down the hallway is very different to asking for help in class. Kids can be shy or unsure when it is ok to ask for help. Make sure your little one knows the rules, whether it be raising a hand or going to the teacher’s desk. A child who is afraid to ask for help, or is unsure of how to go about it, may miss an opportunity to clarify information or check if they are on the right track.

4.    Can your child wait?

At school, your child will be vying for the teacher’s attention along with 25 other kids. A child that has not learned to wait will quickly grow impatient and will be easily frustrated. They will need to wait in line, wait for lunch, wait to use the bathroom, wait their turn for the monkey bars, and the list goes on. Being impulsive or cutting in will not go down well with the teacher or your child’s fellow classmates.

5.    Can your child sit still for at least 20 minutes?

Academic success requires good attention and concentration. A fidgety child, or a child who is easily bored will struggle to sit long enough in class to pay attention and complete their school work.

Pencil grasp, remembering letters and numbers, knowing the days of the week, and colouring in the lines will usually all come with time. When starting Prep it is far more important that your child has mastered the skills mentioned above.

If your child is struggling with any of these things, now is a good time to think about how you can help your child to develop these skills. If you are not sure how to go about it, an occupational therapist can help.

(Article originally posted as Guest Post at www.rashoodz.com.au).

Author Bio:

Dr Nicole Grant is a paediatric Occupational Therapist, and Director of Brisbane-based Gateway Therapies (www.gatewaytherapies.com.au)

 

 

 

Planning for Baby: A Guide for Parents with Disabilities

Parents have a long, sleepless road ahead of them. While also filled with joy and love, parenthood is often trial and error—facing one challenge after the other. This is true for many parents, but the reality can be even bumpier for parents with disabilities.

Being a parent with a disability means that you have to not only think of your child’s development, but how your disability might be an opportunity for his or her growth. All parents plan and prepare as best they can, but for parents with a disability, such as mobility issues, low or partial vision or mental health issues, you will likely have to take a few extra steps to get ready for your baby. Not only will there be changes to your house and home, but your entire life as well.

Adapting your home for baby

Your disability in no way means that you can’t conquer parenthood. The world is filled with a plethora of modifications to help you care for your baby, keep your toddler safe and support your teen—all while keeping your disability in mind. These modifications can help you emphasize your abilities:

●      Wheelchairs & Cribs: You can be an important part of your child’s morning and evening routine with a crib designed for wheelchair access. With a gate-like front hinge, you can open the crib from the front, roll right up to the mattress and tuck your baby in. This quick access also makes it easy to hold your baby when she wakes up or cries in the middle of the night.

●      Texture Labels: For parents with a vision impairment, using textured labels can help you safely navigate your baby’s life, from moving around the nursery to bottle feeding. Using labels that guide you by touch will help you make sure you can take care of the day-to-day routine.

●      Strong Support: For people with depression and anxiety, major life changes can make a substantial additional emotional toll. For parents with mental health issues, you may experience more intense or erratic emotions. Making sure you have a strong support network—from family who can come over to help to counsellors who can guide you through therapy—is key to managing your mental health with a young one.

Keeping up with a toddler

The world is an exciting place for a toddler to explore. They are extremely tactile at this age—investigating their environments with touch and taste—which also makes simple household items somewhat dangerous. Here are a couple of ways to childproof your home for a specific disability:

●      Bath time: Everyone is at risk for a slip or fall in a bathroom—that’s just the nature of a room where water is frequently on. Parents with a disability might want to consider some additional safety measures in the bathroom since they are at a greater risk of an accident. You can install handrails near the bathtub and toilet, place non-slips rugs or put down non-slip flooring, and use high lumen light bulbs so you can see potential tripping hazards.

●      Navigating ramps: For parents with mobility issues, ramps might already be installed in the house to help navigate stairs and other changes in floor levels. Be sure there are handrails on all of the ramps so that your toddler can learn to walk up and down without risking a tumble.

Basic Safety Measures

Regardless of your parenting situation, there are several basic safety measures that all parents should make sure are in place and check often to keep them working. If you have a disability, you might need to ask for help to maintain these important safety precautions:

●      Install and maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors: There are special detectors you can purchase that help alert you to an emergency. Some vibrate to help alert people with a hearing impairment, while others can be positioned lower so a parent in a wheelchair can access them. Often, your local fire department will come by to install these units.

●      Secure large pieces of furniture and electronics: When kids are learning to stand and walk, they often grab onto anything they can to hoist themselves up. Make sure your heavy furniture, like bookcases, are bolted to the walls, and your unstable electronics, like televisions and computers, are securely fastened to surfaces.

Being a parent isn’t easy for anyone, but parents with disabilities have extra precautions they have to consider. Most importantly, pay attention to your baby and practice predicting their next move. Staying ahead means staying safe.

 

Ashley Taylor is a parent of two and advocate for parents with disabilities.  You can find more of her writing at her blog Disabled Parents.

Kristena Lowry
Occupational Therapist for Seniors |Gateway Therapies

Occupation Therapists for Seniors: Why Enlist Their Help?

 

As a person grows older, moving the body gets more tiresome, if not downright difficult. The muscles become weaker so doing the usual routine can end up quite a challenge. There is nothing to be ashamed of when this happens though. It is expected for seniors to need assistance in performing even the simplest of actions like eating or tying shoelaces. This article will help you understand the benefits an occupational therapist will bring to your life now that you are in your golden years.

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Before anything else, what are occupational therapists in the first place? Generally, they help in the recovery of sick, handicapped, and disabled individuals. Their job description is somewhat similar to that of a physical therapist. However, they are more focused on how patients cope with their daily tasks rather than on how an injury heals. It is the job of the occupational therapist to assist in self-care and the like. To understand better what they do, here is a short list of benefits that they can bring to seniors.

 

Overcoming Day-to-Day Struggles

The goal of the therapist is to make your life easier. Although they cannot bring back the body strength you used to have, they can help you get past the difficulty of performing everyday tasks. Trouble keeping your balance or perhaps have a hard time standing up? It is the therapist who will be helping you move around while preventing any incidents of you falling. It is no secret that it is common for seniors to fall. Having an occupational therapist close by will give the sense of security that someone will be there to catch you.

 

Close Monitoring of Self

As you get older, your body starts to become unpredictable. One moment you are fine, the next thing you know you are already on the bed after passing out. For those in aged care homes, there will be professionals who are always present to monitor your condition. You can check this feature before you choose to stay in a facility. However, for those who opt to stay in their own homes, a personal on-call therapist can also be arranged to make sure that you are always safe.

 

Updating Medical Advice

Therapists also attend their own forums and trainings. They are always guided to stay updated on the newest procedures, methods, and techniques for helping individuals. You can take advantage of this when you have your own therapist. Expect to experience the latest methods of therapy which ensure that all your needs are provided for without making you uncomfortable. Therapists can also help you remember the schedule of any of your prescriptions. Most specialists keep a copy of your list of medications and when you should be taking them so they can remind you on time. In some cases, they will also monitor when you need to have your prescription refilled.

 

Having Someone Around

Another obvious benefit of having an occupational therapist is the companionship they can give you. Being old doesn’t have to be lonely. You can talk with them and share your thoughts. It is a part of their role to help you keep your mental health at its best state. They play a significant role in patients with memory problems. If it happens that you are suffering from one, having a therapist see the progress of your condition will help you to better adjust to the current state of your mind.

 

There are more benefits that come with having an occupational therapist around. Now that you have reached the senior stage in life, it is advised that you have someone to look after your needs and give you the proper care that you should be receiving. Do not feel ashamed to have others help you out in doing your daily things. Enlist a good helping hand and live a happier lifestyle as you age.

Nicole GrantGateway Therapies
Comfort Zone

Nicole has recently been included in an article for Womens Health and Fitness.

Here is a little taste of what is included:       "The most important thing for ensuring an ergonomic office space is that your workstation and seating are suitable. Occupational therapist and director of Gateway Therapies, Dr Nicole Grant (gatewaytherapies.com.au), suggests opting for an adjustable chair to ensure your desk and chair are the correct height."

The article is called Comfort Zone. Click the button to read it in full.

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Ashleigh Patterson
Healthy Home Office Habits

If you work from home, chances are you have or will experience musculoskeletal pain.

 

Remember back in the 80's there was an epidemic of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)? You may at least, have heard of the term. The sudden increase in RSI cases coincided with the increased number of computers being used by office workers.

Following this, workplaces began to focus more on strategies to prevent the onset of injury related to constant computer use. Most workplaces now have training or other methods of ensuring their workers are aware of safe work practices and ergonomic principles. Unfortunately, most of us employ these principles at work, and then forget all about them at home!

There is a fantastic cartoon called the Evolution of Man that depicts a hunched over Neanderthal man evolving into modern upright man, and then over time becomes a man hunched over a computer – mimicking the posture of the earlier man. It's a cartoon that is often shown to us Occupational Therapists as students. It is humorous, but illustrates one of the reasons why so many people now report back, neck, and wrist pain.

An insightful client once pointed out to me that humans weren't designed to sit for long periods of time working on a computer. This is true. The largest muscle groups are in the lower limbs, to help us move around. Prolonged sitting, particularly with using a computer, can lead to fatigue of the smaller muscle groups, and eventually pain and injury.

Most offices now, are equipped with fully adjustable, ergonomic chairs and sometimes height adjustable desks. Monitors can be moved to an appropriate height, angle and viewing distance and screen settings can be adjusted to suit varying visual deficits. People who spend a lot of time on the phone often use headsets or the loudspeaker function, freeing their hands for note taking.

Then there's the whole range of ergonomic mouses, track balls, keyboards with wrist rests... the list goes on. Interestingly, workers still report symptoms of pain that are later diagnosed as Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS), or RSI.

One reason is that ergonomic and adaptive equipment may be in place, but used incorrectly. Another reason is that stress is contributing to muscle tension and/ or the worker is not taking enough rest or posture breakers. And the reason that applies to most of us – we don't apply preventative strategies at home.

Many of you are now working from home and trying to squeeze in computer time around meeting the needs of your families. Laptop computers, blackberries, iPhones and other electronics have made it easy to work while sitting on the couch, on the floor or even in bed. Unfortunately, safe work practices go completely out the window.

 The ideal working position is this:

·      knees, hips and elbows at a 90 degree angle when seated

·      feet flat and touching the floor

·      spine supported to maintain the natural curves

·      the monitor or screen height should be at eye level or just below

·      the keyboard should not be higher than your wrists, when your elbows are kept    at a 90 degree angle

·      Your wrists should be neutral (flat)

·      Your mouse, phone or other frequently used items should be within arms reach.

 In addition to the above, you should not be seated for longer than 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Go and grab a coffee or throw yourself on the floor with the kids, but don't stay seated for too long. Even if you are sitting in the position described above, your muscles will still fatigue and injury can result.

So what now? Find somewhere in your home to set up a workstation that allows you to adopt healthier work habits. If you must sit on the couch or in bed, make sure your back is well supported and you adhere to as many of the above points as you can. If you are still experiencing pain, numbness and/or tingling anywhere (except the good places!) see your doctor. It is also possible to consult with an Occupational Therapist (OT) who works in the area of vocational rehabilitation or ergonomics.

An OT can visit your home or office, assess your individual work needs, and provide you with advice, strategies and equipment recommendations if relevant. If you have employees, this is a good idea as a preventative measure to avoid expensive workers compensation claims.

 

Nicole is a qualified Rehabilitation Consultant and Occupational Therapist with over 15 years experience working with injured workers, helping them to return to work post-injury. Contact Nicole on 07 3398 9367 to arrange an assessment.

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