By Olga Sanchez Padron, Stephanie Celecia & Christiane Williamson Fa

The Children’s Health Centre opened on the 17th July 2019, delivering the co-location of children’s primary and secondary health services in a phased manner. The paediatric therapy services including Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech and Language Therapists and Psychologists have been part of the first phase. The therapy services bring a different perspective to the planning and delivery of health care services; they have a range of roles that reach across people’s lives and agencies, assisting children to overcome illnesses, keep healthy and live a full and productive life in the community by promoting transformative change. These services are delivered by highly trained and experienced staff who are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

The therapy professionals are known as Allied Health Professionals (AHPs), and their role in providing optimal patient care is critical, indispensable and distinct from medical, nursing and dental services. AHPs have a unique and essential role in facilitating wellbeing and health, and when used effectively are ideally situated to address many challenges in health, social and care systems. AHPs provide treatment and help rehabilitate children who are ill, have disabilities or special needs to live life as fully as possible. AHPs provide evidence-based approaches and consistently measure their impact to optimise effectiveness, productivity and efficiency. As advocates for their patients, they often are the first to recognise difficulties experienced by families and children and frequently serve as a safety net.

Their role is critical, indispensable and distinct.

Occupational Therapists are a type of AHP that believe that the joining in (participation) in everyday activities (occupations) improves wellbeing. Taking part in occupations help you live a safe, healthy and happy life. As the World Health Organisation (WHO) describe health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being not merely the absence of disease”.

We understand that there is a connection between ‘the person’, ‘the occupation’, and ‘the environment’, and that by making changes to any of these areas you can improve participation and wellbeing.

Occupations are the activities that you need and want to do every day. An Occupational Therapist will try to find out why a child cannot do the activities they would like to or need to do.

They can be broken down into three types that are important in a child’s development.

1. Self-care: washing, dressing, eating and toilet independently;

2. Play and leisure: children’s main occupation is play, and through play they learn how to make new friends and learn new things and understand themselves;

3. Education: participating in education and school is an important occupation in a child’s life.

The role of an Occupation Therapist is to provide intervention, support and/or advice to children and young people (0-18 years) and their families, where there is a difficulty or impairment which impacts on their performance and participation in everyday activities of life. These difficulties may be due to poor gross and fine motor co-ordination, poor motor planning skills, visual perceptual difficulties or sensory processing differences.

Intervention is provided in a variety of ways; one-to-one sessions are offered at the Children’s Health Centre, at home, in schools and nurseries. Group sessions can be held in the Children’s Health Centre or in other venues; these give the children the opportunity to mix with others who have similar difficulties. The Occupational Therapy team offer advice and information to nurseries and schools to develop the staff’s knowledge of some of the difficulties that children and young people may have and how they can support them to join in these environments. The type of intervention approach and delivery is dependent on the need of the child, therapy goal and objective. Children may also require specialist equipment. This equipment is often required both at home, at school and in all the places, the child visits in their daily lives. An OT may recommend equipment to help with positioning and mobility.

Through the continued commitment of our incredible team of AHPs, the new Children’s Health Centre will continue to assist and support the healthy growth and rehabilitation of our local younger generation. Pick up next month’s issue to learn about our Speech and Language Therapists.