Nadia Cusack Occupational Therapist Inc.
Nadia Cusack and Jessica McCallum
- Neurodevelopmental Care of the Preterm Infant
- SOS Feeding Therapist
- MAES Trained Therapist
- Ayres Sensory Integration Trained
- BSc OT (WITS), BSc OT (UCT)
Key areas of interest:
- Children of all ages who have sensory integration difficulties
- Developmental delay due to prematurity or general slow development
- Scholastic and learning difficulties as well as AD/HD
- Children with gross or fine motor coordination difficulties
- Special needs such as cerebral palsy, genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome
- Autism, Asperger’s syndrome and children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders
- Fussy babies, babies struggling with colic, difficulties with sleeping etc.
- Picky eaters
- Assisting in placing children in the school most appropriate for their needs and will execute school readiness assessments if required
Our approach and values
We are passionate about children and helping them to reach their unique, individual potential irrespective of their difficulties or circumstances. We feel that is it important to treat each child as an individual and therefore therapy is not a ‘program’ but each session is specially planned according to the child’s particular needs and growth areas.
It is important to us that the child is viewed holistically and therefore no developmental area is treated in isolation and therefore we also focus on ensuring that the skills developed in therapy, are carried over into the home, school and social environments. We feel very strongly about working together with family, school and other health professionals to reach this goal and therefore also provide both parent and teacher guidance and training.
Our aim is to make therapy as fun as possible so that our children will engage and grow and learn in the best manner possible while providing the just right challenge for them.
It is important to us that in this therapy process, we help to minimise both the parent’s and child’s stress regarding their functional difficulties (e.g. struggling at school) and to assist them in developing better coping mechanisms.
Children and adolescents use a variety of age appropriate play and activities to learn and develop. These include tasks such as self-care, physical play, academic learning as well as social interaction. Occupational Therapists use activities that are meaningful to the child to engage them and facilitate the development of their foundational, sensory, gross and fine motor as well as pre-academic skills. This allows for the development of self-esteem, confidence, concentration and active engagement.
Initially individualized therapy activities target improving skill and a child’s ability to cope with the demands of their learning environments. Thereafter, therapy promotes carry-over of these skills into other settings thus enabling a child to continue to adapt their skills and meet new challenges.
Ayres Sensory Integration
Sensory Integration is an unconscious process of the brain by which information detected by the senses is organized. It is through these processes that meaning is attached to what is experienced. In order for this process to occur smoothly, the brain must sift through all the information it receives from the various senses and select what to focus on. For example, within a classroom a child is expected to pay attention to what is being taught by the teacher while simultaneously ignoring background noise present, in order to learn optimally. Through a process referred to as habituation, the brain filters out unimportant information and decides to no longer pay attention to it.
The process of Sensory Integration allows us to respond to situations in a purposeful manner known as adaptive responses. Adaptive responses that are appropriate to the situation form the foundation for academic learning and social behaviour. When these processes are inefficient or overtly effortful for a child this can affect multiple areas of development such as socio-emotional development, independence and motor planning development and have grave consequences. In an attempt to minimise the effects of these difficulties, a child will often avoid, seek or ignore certain sensory inputs in an effort to cope. However, these strategies are often ineffective and negatively impact on daily function.
A Sensory Integration trained Occupational Therapist will therefore consider the child’s individual sensory profile during assessment and make careful use of sensory-based treatment activities to enhance therapy and promote adaptive behaviour resulting in learning and improved integration of sensory and associated neurological pathways.
The Occupational Therapy Process:
A holistic and systematic assessment and treatment process will assess the following areas of development according to age appropriate norms and how a child performs in all relevant areas of their lives.
Sensory Processing and Regulation:
This refers to the ability to perceive, interpret and respond appropriately to sensory information and impacts on the ability to cope with daily routines
Concentration and Auditory Processing:
This relates to the ability to focus and participate in a variety of situations as well as the ability to make sense of and respond appropriately to what is heard, for example, to be able to follow instructions.
Gross Motor Ability and Control:
Here the occupational therapist evaluates the child’s ability to smoothly coordinate, time and plan a variety of familiar and unfamiliar gross motor activities. Core stability, endurance and strength are also assessed.
Fine Motor Ability and Control:
This includes aspects such as pencil grip and control as well as neatness and speed of cutting, writing and colouring. Tool manipulation and the coordinated use of both hands are evaluated.
Perceptual abilities refers to being able to visually manipulate information such as building puzzles, understanding that a circle and sphere are both round as is a tin, a ball, a fan etc. these skills form part of the foundation for learning to read and write.
This applies to various characteristics such as confidence, frustration or anxiety levels as well as participation, imaginary play and following a routine.
Activities of Daily Living:
The child’s ability to dress or feed themselves as well as toilet routines is assessed. Sleep routines are also considered as is the child’s involvement and ability to cope at school (preschool or primary) and academics.
* Please note that this list is not exhaustive and that some signs be present in children that do not display affected development while others may be present in children who do not have a Sensory Integrative Disorder.