By: Peggy Keller, OTR/L
The word adaptation has been a part of my life since becoming an OT over 30 years ago. However, it has been in the forefront of every day since my back surgery on the 3rd of August.
In my case it’s no lifting, bending, twisting. Sounds straight forward, right? Well it is amazing how many things one drops in a day. I have become skilled at using a reacher and or my toes to pick up the smallest of things. Enough about me.
Let’s focus on the definition of adaptation and how each one of us figures out how to do something differently.
I often use the example of using a schedule or calendar; one person uses their smart phone, one uses a paper wall calendar, some walk around with their notebook to ensure all appointments are written down at the time they are scheduled.
I believe it’s a person’s mind-set that may cause one the most distress. Remember, there is always more than one way to get something done. If one can be open minded and willing to try something a new way then there is very little that can stand in your way.
There are all sorts of places to buy adaptive equipment. However, is it really a piece of equipment you need or just a different way of doing the task? Remember, If I dropped my pencil on the floor, I may use a reacher to get it, but it may be just as easy for me to use my toes to get it.
So, as parents, how do we help our kids adapt? My first recommendation is to include them in the process. Their buy in is important. Back to the calendar, those of us that need the hard copy wouldn’t be very happy if you just took that away. Figure out what needs to happen differently. If it’s letting go of a baby blanket, trying new foods, changing to a different bed time, or meeting a different sitter; all of these are not viewed the same by the person it is affecting as it is by the adult or parent.
Let’s use a child’s blanket for example. The child needs the blanket because it provides some sort of security, routine or familiarity that they are not willing to change at this point. The parent may see it as immature or an eye sore. The parent may be ready to have one less thing to find when they are leaving the house. It is one of those things that should be taken in steps. Maybe the blanket can sit on a chair nearby instead of holding it during dinner. Maybe it can be available for nap time and bed time but have a safe spot to place it during play time. Maybe, it can be down sized into a smaller blanket. Fair to say there is not one way to outgrow carrying around one’s blanket.
Take the time to sit down and think of the reasons why something needs to change. Then write down some options or ideas of how that might take place. This might be when you enlist your child’s input on the matter. See which of your options they like best and then put the process in motion by writing down the plan. Remember that plans can be changed and that if it doesn’t go well at first, try small adaptations to your existing plan rather than throwing it away completely.
Occupational therapy can best be described as a profession that incorporates adaptation into life skills; anything one needs to do in a day. Those of us in the profession are always looking for new ways to do things. If there is someone in your family in need of adaptations to make life easier, an occupational therapist may be the one to help.