Occupational Therapy is Part of Children’s Mental Wellness
May 9, 2012, is SAMHSA’s National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day
BETHESDA, MD—Bullying, loss of a loved one, anxiety, and depression can impact a child’s mental health. Through the use of meaningful activities, occupational therapy practitioners provide mental health prevention, promotion, and intervention strategies for children and youth to help live life to its fullest.
In support of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 9, the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Pediatric Coordinator Sandra Schefkind, MS, OTR/L, will moderate a Pediatric Chat at 2 p.m. EST on Monday, May 14. “Occupational Therapy’s Role in Injury Prevention and Trauma” will feature AOTA members Ellen Schmidt, MS, OT, assistant director of the Children’s Safety Network at the National Injury and Violence Prevention Resource Center in Washington, D.C.; and JoAnn Kennedy, BSOT, OTR/L, clinical doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University and private practitioner dedicated to serving sensory integration needs of children with a focus on trauma and attachment-enforced care in Fairfax, Va.
There are two ways to participate in the Pediatric Chat: by phone and online. Callers can dial 724-444-7444 and enter caller ID 73733. Online users can visit www.talkshoe.com/tc/73733. Both options offer the opportunity to simply listen or join the conversation.
Occupational therapy practitioners are often one of the first professionals to treat children who have experienced pediatric trauma. This is because OTs traditionally work with these children from a perspective of developmental milestones and sensory processing.
“Children who have been exposed to trauma often have developmental delays. Occupational therapy practitioners are experts at treating children with sensory disturbances and we know that trauma changes our sensory awareness in many different ways,” Kennedy says. “Children with a history of trauma are often very vigilant of sights and sounds, but less aware, or inaccurately aware, of the sensations from their own bodies. This interferes with their sense of well-being, and participation in activities of daily life such as active and social play. Feeling out of touch with one's own body can impact a child's development in many ways.”
Occupational therapy also provides prevention strategies. Play is a primary area of activity or occupation for children. “Play provides an important opportunity for social participation and to promote physical growth and development. Occupational therapy practitioners can modify playgrounds and play activities to help children participate in play. This helps to build healthy children and their families,” says Schefkind, adding that children who are at risk for developing mental health challenges or have identified mental illness may experience challenges during play such as isolation at recess time. This includes children who have experienced trauma. “For example, occupational therapy practitioners can contribute to school anti-bullying initiatives so at-risk children can be supported.”
According to SAMHSA, more than 1,000 community-based mental health service and support providers, community programs, schools, and collaborating organization affiliates from across the country are estimated to be celebrating this annual observance. The theme of this year’s awareness day is “Heroes of Hope,” and it is honoring individuals who have helped young people demonstrate resilience following traumatic events.
For more information about National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, visit www.samhsa.gov. To interview an occupational therapy practitioner about his or her work in mental health, contact AOTA Media Relations Manager Katie Riley at 301-652-6611, ext. 2963, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.