How do OTs support kids with Learning Differences?

If you are an OT, you are already supporting clients with learning differences (dyslexia, learning disabilities, ADHD, etc)!  They may have a diagnosis or maybe not.  

But what I want you to see is that you can support children that learn differently not to just develop the skills they need -- but you can address the emotional damage that can come from shame.  The shame your client might be experiencing when they can't complete their writing activity.  Or they can't read the words in front of them.  

As an OT:

  • You can help them succeed when they approach learning "their way".  
  • You can help them develop skills sooner and put the right accommodations into place at the right time to minimize or eliminate the mental health concerns. 

I believe OTs can offer the accommodations that children with LD require.  

Children with learning differences have average to above average intelligence -- so accommodations are about putting in the strategies needed to allow your client to learn at their grade level.  Your client is accommodated to learn their way -- is how I like to put it!

OTs can support their clients that learn differently, as they require a different approach to recall & develop basic skills -- and because of this -- they may appear as though they do not understand or have the skills which can lead to lower level work.  

Modifications is mostly about changing the level of work -- although there are times when the modification is about the amount of work offered (which is at your client’s grade level) I view this more as an accommodation as you’re accommodating your client’s level of attention or ability to work through the material at a slower rate -- so less work is requested. 

When the level of work drops, your client may be able to complete the work but their self-esteem will most likely drop as well -- as they know the work is easier but that's not the only problem, the gap between their peers and them get bigger!  

And this is the start of a cycle, we have to stop -- as this can lead to kids working well below their peers when they have the ability to work at grade level -- with the right accommodations.  From there, we have anxiety, depression, anger, and many more emotional health issues. 

So here's where OT can work not only on skill development and accommodations but mental health.

Accommodation is the word we need to focus on. 

Accommodation is about strategies.  

Strategies to help your client learn at grade level.  A way of learning that allows them to work alongside their peers and understand "their way of learning".  

Yes, I believe this is where kids that learn differently need to be -- and WE (my OT friends) -- can help them stay there!