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Question
Posted by: Purple | 2010/03/24

Occupational Therapy

HI CS,

Hope you are well.

When I was at school, not that very long ago, I was always in trouble during hte primary school years for rushing through my work so fast that it wasn''t neat. I always finished it, but it never looked beautiful. When I got to high school, I stopped getting complaints about my untidy handwriting and was left to get on with it. I then learnt to touch type, which I do extremely fast, although with a few errors.

My son is 6 and will be in grade 1 next year. Yesterday we had the teacher meetings for first term feedback. My sons work is beautiful and neat. He comes home every day filled with pride about the effort he has put into getting it to look so nice. The teacher told me that this is a problem as he doesn''t always finish his work. When I looked at it, he has completed all the things that are important - he has completed his rows and rows of repeating patterns, he has matched letter sounds with objects, he has written his name and so on.
She then said that she thought he might need OT. I responded that we would not be willing to send him to OT for that and that we thought OT was a money making racket, as most of the people I know who go to OT spend 3 years learning their colours there - something they should have been taught by their parents and teachers anyway.

Last year my son wouldn''t do his puzzles. I knew he had been able to do 6 piece puzzles at 14 months old when other children were struggling with peg puzzles. He had mastered the skill long before and was now mastering other skills. I told him he needed to do the puzzles as his teachers thought he couldn''t do them and he needed to show that he could. His new teacher didn''st mention puzzles at all, and at home he is whizzing through 100 piece puzzles that my family gave him for Christmas. I was told his problem solving skills were weak - this is the same child who can build working models of moving dinosaurs meant for 8 year olds - so I don''t think his problem solving skills are weak.

Surely not all children can be little robots who all perform at exactly the same level - do teachers not allow for individual differences. Must the neat children work faster and the fast children work neater so that they all work at the same pace? I''m quite sure that when he is doing tests in grade 4 and discovers he isn''t finishing that he''ll soon speed up.

My husband and I wanted him to start school early but met extreme resistance. I then spoke to family members who had started school early and all said they would rather have been with their age group as they were still bored with the work despite starting up to two years early, they had to take extra subjects and fill their time with sport anyway and it wouldn''t have been different if they had started later. They all said they found high school very uncomfortable as they hit puberty later, weren''t allowed to do the things the others who were so much older were allowed to do and so on.
I just know we''re going to get told to hold him back at the end of this year, and we have decided that we are absoloutely not going to do that, that he will go to grade 1 next year.

I am starting to think that clever children are penalised for having moved ahead of their peers. I know that I spent a lot of time at school pretending that I didn''t know things so that teachers wouldn''t accuse me of having got help from my parents. I always made sure that an essay had a glaring error, that I didn''t put too much effort into a project in case I was told someone else had done it for me and so on. I don''t want this happening to my son. I want him to be able to embrace his intelligence. I am not saying I" m particularly intelligent, but I do have quite a good memory, meaning I was able to easily do things that others struggled with because I remembered things from other subjects that tied in and so on. I can see that my son has inherited what is a curse at school but is extremely useful at work. I just don''t know how best to nurture him through this so that he doesn''t pretend that he isn''t clever - which I think he is (but then I suppose that every parent thinks that of their child).

I''m polite when I deal wtih the teachers, and for the most part find they have constructive and useful things to say, but yesteray made me a bit upset. Especially when the teacher said he takes long with his work because he has low muscle tone. I nearly laughed out loud - he plays sport on most days of the week and the coaches are constantly amazed at how good his upper body strength is in comparison to others his age, how fast he runs, how fit he is. I did tell this to the teacher and after that she stopped recommending the OT.

Do you think teachers get a kick back from occupational therapists for recommending their services?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Hi Purple. I recall having had similar experiences in school. A truth is that most teachers are not especially intelligent people, and tend to be conformists, and any child that IS particularly intelligent, and / or creative and non-conformist, let alone both, tend to make them highly uneasy. They seek to control children in ways that are not in the least useful.
Its like the way teachers make a fuss about hairstyles, because, realizing they can't control what goes on inside the head, as they would like to do, they try, vainly, to control what goes on, on its surface.
Anyhow, I always used to respect what OT's used to be, and what they used to do, and properly trained ones who recognize their own limitations ( which should be an important part of everyone's training ) and who work with children when referred by doctors, especially paediatricians, can be realyl valuable.
Referrals by teachers should never be accepted, and I do indeed find some patterns of excessive or daft referrals suspicious and undesitable.
A teacher is able, IF they pay close attention to their students, to raise useful QUESTIONS about where a child may have problems. Neither a teacher nor an OT is trained nor qualified to make diagnoses.
The "low muscle tone" example is so laughable. Its the low mental tone of the teacher that is worrying there.
the good examples o useful IT which Maria is quoting arise when a proper genuine medical / neurological diagnoses has been made, when a specific problem has been expertly identified, and when then, and only then, they are referred to an OT to devise activities which will enable them to practice and improve a specific set of skills, motor or otherwise.
NO referrals from teachers to OT or any other profesional should be accepted. If a possibly significant problem is identified, the child should be assessed, depending on the nature of the problem, by a proper child shrink or paediatrician, and possible therapies, if needed, discussed and selected.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Maria | 2010/03/24

Purple, I went for physiotherapy and try to improve my posture at work so that I will be a more balanced rider for my horse''s sake. I guess it all depends on the angle from which you approach it!

I don''t have issues with handwriting, my loving mom often said that when I write it looks as if a fly fell in a pot of ink and crawled across the page. One must just make sure that what you see is not an indication of some underlying problem.

Elaine I agree, schools would like to have little clones in their classes. Thank goodness for the teachers who are still willing to not only put up with, but actively encourage individualism.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: Elaine | 2010/03/24

Awesome to read comments like this. I am struggling with teachers who battle to cope with my child and always have. If the children don''t fit into their " perfect"  mold the teachers don''t know how to handle it. I agree with Cybershrink absolutely and i had the same problems at school for non-conforming.

Reply to Elaine
Posted by: Red | 2010/03/24

In grade one I was taught how to hold a pen. I am left handed and it looks awkward to write. I didn''t listen. I wrote in the way it felt comfortable for me to hold a pen in my hand.

So why was I forced to hold pen the way they wanted to.

Reply to Red
Posted by: PUrple | 2010/03/24

Thanks Maria, that is true, but surely if the child has bad posture, then doing sport will counteract that?

I think my sons neatness and care in getting things done right shows good attention to detail. He is in fact doing all the things I was always in trouble for not doing. Is every child supposed to be mediocre at everything and not be good in one particular area.

My handwriting wasn''t neat because I" m not a tidy person. I have poor posture now as an adult, but I go to gym and work on my core muscles to resolve that. As a child who did horse riding and water skiing and played squash, my psoture was very good, I was often complemented on it - yet there is no doubt my handwriting would make a doctor proud. It is however still quite legible and drew no complaints through high school or my tertiary education (we only had to type major assignments, it wasn''t required for general assignments).

Reply to PUrple
Posted by: Maria | 2010/03/24

One must also look at why certain things are important. I couldn''t care less if my child''s handwriting is sloppy. However it could be a symptom of bad posture. This is important, because if she is putting too much effort into just staying upright, she is probably not concentrating optimally on the work she needs to be doing.

A good OT can be worth her weight in gold to kids with real problems and their parents. At OT a child can learn skills in a completely non-threatening and non-competitive environment. Most of the time the OT''s work hard at making this learning so much fun that the child doesn''t even realise she''s is practicing a difficult skill or learning something new.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: Purple | 2010/03/24

Thanks Maria. Yes, you are right, there are some children who have a genuine problem, such as pencil grip or are in need of what is probably now an unfashionable term " remedial"  help who I''m sure would benefit hugely. I was feeling so " grrrr"  that I didn''t think through that side of things.

Reply to Purple
Posted by: Maria | 2010/03/24

Purple, without a doubt some kids benefit hugely from OT. My daughter happens to be one of those. However I think that teachers recommend it way too often. Any child that gets tested will have something " wrong"  that needs therapy and a lot of the time it will be simply a developmental issue. Give the kid a couple of months and he will catch up. I agree with you that they are trying to make the kids all be exactly the same, and that''s just unrealistic.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/03/24

Hi Purple. I recall having had similar experiences in school. A truth is that most teachers are not especially intelligent people, and tend to be conformists, and any child that IS particularly intelligent, and / or creative and non-conformist, let alone both, tend to make them highly uneasy. They seek to control children in ways that are not in the least useful.
Its like the way teachers make a fuss about hairstyles, because, realizing they can't control what goes on inside the head, as they would like to do, they try, vainly, to control what goes on, on its surface.
Anyhow, I always used to respect what OT's used to be, and what they used to do, and properly trained ones who recognize their own limitations ( which should be an important part of everyone's training ) and who work with children when referred by doctors, especially paediatricians, can be realyl valuable.
Referrals by teachers should never be accepted, and I do indeed find some patterns of excessive or daft referrals suspicious and undesitable.
A teacher is able, IF they pay close attention to their students, to raise useful QUESTIONS about where a child may have problems. Neither a teacher nor an OT is trained nor qualified to make diagnoses.
The "low muscle tone" example is so laughable. Its the low mental tone of the teacher that is worrying there.
the good examples o useful IT which Maria is quoting arise when a proper genuine medical / neurological diagnoses has been made, when a specific problem has been expertly identified, and when then, and only then, they are referred to an OT to devise activities which will enable them to practice and improve a specific set of skills, motor or otherwise.
NO referrals from teachers to OT or any other profesional should be accepted. If a possibly significant problem is identified, the child should be assessed, depending on the nature of the problem, by a proper child shrink or paediatrician, and possible therapies, if needed, discussed and selected.

Reply to cybershrink

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