The Greenwich children’s occupational therapy
team works with children and young people from 0-19 years of age who experience difficulties
in carrying out everyday activities. Occupational therapists call these activities
occupations and they include self care, play, socialising and things children need to do
at school and at home such as sitting, writing, eating and dressing. Occupational therapy
helps children become more independent in these activities. We work from three main bases in Greenwich:
Goldie Leigh Hospital in Abbey Wood, Ferryview Health Centre in Woolwich, and Wensley Close
in Eltham. We also work within nurseries and schools, including special needs schools and,
on occasions, in families’ homes. Children are referred to us by paediatricians
and other healthcare professionals, and also by education staff. After a child has been
seen by the service, re-referral can be accepted from parents as well. When we first see a child following referral,
we carry out an initial assessment in which the occupational therapist will look at how
the child uses their hands to carry out tasks – how they move, sit and stand and their ability
to do a variety of activities. We will also look at the underlying skills required to
do these activities, such as the child’s visual perception, how they move their body,
and how they interpret sensory information from the environment. Children’s occupational therapists use a
range of assessments and observations as well as discussion with the child, parents, and
where appropriate, the school. Our early years service for children aged
from 0-5 focuses on the basic skills that a child needs to be able to play, such as
positioning, seating, and hand use. This includes the skills they will require for going into
nursery. We also work with parents to address any difficulties
they may have with managing their child’s daily activities, such as bathing and dressing. Our mainstream school service works with a
wide variety of school aged children. This could include working with children to help
them to access the environment as independently as possible, for example if they are in a
wheelchair, or if they require specialist seating, to maintain their posture to enable
them to concentrate on learning. It could also include working with children
who may have coordination difficulties and find it difficult to sit still and concentrate,
or to use the tools they need to at school such as pencils, scissors and rulers. Occupational therapists will work with children
to develop the underlying skills needed for these tasks, such as making sense of the environment,
strengthening, range of grasps, and use of both hands together. Alternatively we may
also look at adaptations to the task, or equipment so that the child can achieve success. For
example, move and sit cushions, weighted pencils, grips, spring loaded scissors, or we may liaise
with schools about using alternative methods of recording work such as using a computer. We work very closely with our children’s
therapy colleagues, such as physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and music therapists
to deliver an integrated service. Following assessment a child will be given
advice if required, or they may be offered a place in a group, or a short block of individual
sessions to work on the difficulties identified. Children are encouraged to learn skills by
practising them on a regular basis within their daily routine and activities. We also run regular advice clinics where children
who have been discharged and their families can come when they feel they require further
advice or ideas for activities.