Occupational Therapy to support Holistic Development

The model which Siyakwazi implements, supports the holistic inclusion and development of a child with a disability. We support early identification and advocate for early intervention. In some instances, supporting developmental delays or barriers to learning, early intervention leads to prevention as we support a child through critical developmental pathways at an early age.

At the start of 2020 Dani Mulder, an Occupational Therapist joined the therapy team, providing monthly support to children with disabilities. Introducing a wider scope of therapy support has been an enormous asset to the interventions provided to the children who receive support through Siyakwazi. Occupational therapy not only focuses on the physical development of a child but on the child as a whole with a particular interest in supporting functioning and development in all learning areas.

Children need holistic support where all aspects of their development are considered and evaluated. Individual children will experience challenges in different developmental areas and therefore a unique intervention may be necessary to support them to grow and learn in small attainable steps.

As a result we are able to reach all our children with quality interventions that support individualised and specific goals for each child. Siyasizas obtain extra support in refining skills needed to support families in implementing these goals. Focus is also placed on other areas of difficulty besides physical impairments, including if a child has difficulty at school, behavioural difficulties, or day-to-day functional activities such as getting dressed, etc.

Dani’s feedback from her work with Siyakwazi so far: “Many of the children face barriers in their environments and are not only impaired by their difficulties with their physical selves. We often want to only change the child but not support them in their contexts. Through changing the way we understand children with disabilities, I will aim to help target the entire network of support, from caregivers and family to the Siyasizas who are our primary health carers, to the public health care workers who are often overwhelmed with numbers during their clinic visits.”

How will developing an OT-based support plan ‘help these children’?

“As an OT I aim to elevate the burden of caring for a functionally dependent child by incorporating their exercises and stretches into the families’ everyday lives (assistive devices, implementing strategies and techniques to limit deformity during daily tasks, aiming for maximum functional independence). My goals are always targeted at functioning in areas of life, including play and education, activities of daily living, rest and sleep, and social participation or community engagement. We not only target these goals by looking at factors pertaining to the child, but also look at environmental context; and aim for performance skills gained through engagement in itself. “

How have children responded to the activities and exercises in your sessions with the children?

“Many of the treatments implemented may not present with outright results immediately, but we are already starting to notice a difference in some of the children’s awareness, attempts at communication, and tolerating being moved or stretched.”

How have parents responded to the activities and exercises in your sessions with the children?

“Most of the parents and caregivers are really observant and notice how handling their child slightly differently can have an effect on their function and alertness. Parent and caregiver response is paramount to ensuring we achieve the optimum outcome for each child.”

To date, Dani has assessed and supported 50 children with therapy visits and programmes as well as conducted 4 training sessions with our Siyasizas. We look forward to her continued support and input.