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Occupational therapy vital in recovery

Written by: Allison Cooper

The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital’s (RCWMCH) occupational therapy (OT) team has developed the Four Thoughts for Change to assist its patients’ parents and caregivers. 

OT helps people with health challenges to better participate in daily life and plays a vital role in the treatment and recovery of various medical conditions and severe trauma, such as burns or car accidents.

By using self-care, work, education, play, leisure and social activities, OT helps children to function independently. It also enhances development, promotes health and wellbeing and prevents disability.

The RCWMCH’s occupational therapists use meaningful activities to improve children’s performance in daily activities, such as dressing and school participation. 

“The primary role of a caregiver in the child’s development is to promote an environment where the child can grow up and develop their full potential; have fun; be safe and healthy; and have a space where they are listened to, can express their thoughts and feelings, ask questions and receive honest answers.

“It’s a child’s job to play. Children learn through play and it contributes to their physical, intellectual and emotional development. It teaches them resilience and gives them confidence,” says Mereille Pursad, the RCWMCH’s Head of OT.

Four Thoughts for Change

The four thoughts for change are quality time, keep it positive, structure it and keep calm and manage your stress.  

Quality time: Children need quality time and caregivers are encouraged to play with their children. This provides the child with security, allows for connection and builds a bridge for lasting relationships. 

Keep it positive: Children could express stress by defiant behaviour, such as tantrums, irritability and withdrawal or clinging to caregivers. “A positive environment for understanding and adaptation can be created by listening to your child, using positive words when telling them what to do and praising them for what they do well.”

Structure it: Routines are vital to establish a sense of predictability, stability and security. The more a child can anticipate what is ahead, the better prepared they are to face daily challenges and expectations.

Keep calm and manage your own stress: “We strive to look at each of our patients and their caregivers holistically and maximise their quality of life. We acknowledge that it is a stressful time, however, you cannot pour from an empty cup,” says RCWMCH Occupational Therapist Dani Ferraris, explaining that breathing exercises, hobbies, meditation, prayer and exercise have proven to reduce stress.