Gateway Therapies
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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.  

Posts tagged developmental delay
Learning Disabilities or Learning Differences - How to Bring out Your Child's Inner Artist

A guest post by
Lillian Brooks

lillian@learningdisabilities.info

LearningDisabilities.info was created to offer information and understanding to parents of children with learning disabilities, as well as adults who are in need of continued support to succeed.



According to Understood, around one in five children have learning and attention difficulties. However, it might be better to think of learning difficulties as learning differences -- children who struggle with standard subjects and teaching methods might thrive in other fields, such as the arts. If you think this might be true of your child, here are a few ways to get them started.

 

Performing Arts 

Many children labelled as “disruptive” in the classroom, are simply expressing their excess energy and desire for attention. Children like this often shine onstage! Those who are gifted in traditional classroom settings often falter in the performing arts, perhaps because they are too “in their heads.” Many children with learning differences find it easier to get in touch with their bodies and express themselves without holding back -- which is of course crucial to moving performances in dance or theater. Some performing arts classes, such as improv classes, allow children learn to express themselves in a safe environment, helping them to improve their social and emotional intelligence.

 

Visual Arts

Many children with learning differences struggle with language and literacy -- these kids may find the visual arts a better fit to how their mind works. Interestingly, children who do take up the arts often find that their language skills improve -- psychologists aren’t sure why but they think it helps them to process and make sense of the language they have already learned. Artforms like drawing and painting are ideal because they are easy and cheap to get started in -- all you need is a painting kit and a space they can play without worrying about the mess.

 

If your child is more tactile, textile arts would be a good choice. With textile arts, the texture and shape of the piece is just as important as it’s visual appearance, which gives your child an extra dimension in which to express themselves. They’ll be able to create tapestries, clothes, or make modifications to existing clothes, and the end result is a tangible, physical creation. At the same time, they will develop their motor skills, or learn to use machinery if they are old enough to try sewing machines. Check out these sewing resources from HomeAdvisor.

 

Music

Is your child musically minded? If so then music classes might be a good fit for them. In a similar way as the visual arts, music gives a voice to children who struggle to express their feelings in words, and studies show music is particularly effective for children with attentional difficulties. However, music is not as easily accessible as the visual arts, it also takes some time and dedication to build the level of skill need to play freely. However, some children pick this up quickly, while others enjoy the challenge -- you could start by taking your child to a group music session where they can play a small part in a group production, and expand their role as their skill improves.

 

Art Therapy

It’s no secret that children with learning differences face difficulties that other children don’t. On top of that, they may find it difficult to express themselves, and talk about what they are experiencing. This is where art therapy comes in -- and it’s very different to a standard art class. In art therapy, children are encouraged to express themselves through art -- to paint a picture about how they feel, for instance. This helps them get in touch with their emotions, and express them in ways that they may struggle to do with language. However, they are not developing artistic skills, nor are they judged on the quality of the art they produce. The goal is pure expression. However, if they enjoy it, there’s no reason you can’t take them to traditional art classes also, or give them materials to use at home.

 

A problem that children with learning disabilities will face throughout their lives, is being defined by their challenges. The arts provide a buffer against this, by teaching them about their gifts. Which art form do you think is more suitable for your child?

 

Photo: Pixabay

Should my child get a diagnosis?

A post from Director, Nicole.....

I often receive requests to assess for delays with development or dysfunction in the areas of sensory processing, fine and gross motor development, attention/ concentration and other areas of function. One of the questions I am frequently asked by parents, particularly when obvious issues become apparent, is - what do you think it is? Many parents are aware of neurodevelopmental disorders like those on the autism spectrum, and I often get asked about ADHD and sensory processing disorder.

I will always refer to a paediatrician for diagnosis, but can assist with the process by providing a report outlining my observations and recommendations.

Parents often feel reassured when they at least have a little more information as a result of an initial assessment, particularly as my focus is always on providing information and strategies to assist - regardless of whether or not a name is given to the challenges identified.

Once specific issues are identified, the treatment options or interventions used tend to be the same, regardless of what the diagnosis is, or will be. The problem here is that without a diagnosis, parents can have limited access to Occupational Therapy services. Government funding is available in Australia for children with special needs via such schemes as Helping Children with Autism and the Enhanced Primary Care Scheme. However, a diagnosis is required. Parents who wish to pursue intervention with a private allied health professional, and do not have a diagnosis, may be able to claim some of the expenses from their private health fund, or self-fund the fees.

Occupational Therapy services are available to the community via community services and more specifically to school age children through the Department of Education and Training. Waiting lists are often lengthy, which can affect access to early intervention services, however it's worth contacting your local department to check.

My concern with seeking a specific diagnosis or giving a name to the difficulties a child is experiencing, is that some children just do not meet all the criteria to be given a diagnosis. This doesn't mean they are any less in need of assistance. Many children can benefit from Occupational Therapy services, to develop skills to help them with their school work, social interaction, and self care. Click on the links or email me for more information.

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