Hello! My name is Jena Brown and I am an occupational therapist (OT) at Partners In Excellence. I have been practicing as an occupational therapist for six years and treat clients at both the Winona, MN and La Crosse, WI locations. One of the many reasons that I love Partners is the commitment that all the staff possess to help our clients gain skills and make progress. I love to collaborate with all my colleagues and families, working together to help our clients succeed and reach their greatest potential. 

So, you might be asking yourself…what even is occupational therapy? What does a therapy session look like? 

OTs work with individuals across the lifespan (children, older adults, and everyone in between) and it can look different based on the setting. At Partners, OT focus areas include: 

1)  Gross motor skills (i.e. running, jumping, coordination, balance, postural stability) 

2) Fine motor skills (i.e. handwriting, holding a pencil, coordinated use of your hands and fingers, bilateral coordination) 

3) Self-help skills (i.e. dressing, feeding, hygiene) 

4) Self-regulation skills (i.e. sensory processing, emotional regulation) 

The primary therapeutic techniques that occupational therapists use in pediatrics, including at Partners are PLAY and MOVEMENT! Children learn best when they are provided with opportunities to play and explore their environment through movement. 

Occupational therapists will naturally target many skill areas within play activities. For example, if I’m working on handwriting, my client and I may construct letters with Play Doh(R) or write the letters in shaving cream. Or – if I’m working on balance and coordination, my client and I will go on an “obstacle course scavenger hunt” to collect puzzle pieces.  Occupational therapists are excellent at getting creative and using play to facilitate skill development.  

When is the last time you have seen a baby starting to learn how to walk? He or she has clear desire to start mobilizing to explore his or her environment. Humans crave and learn from movement, even our trips, falls, and blunders. All those missteps that you took as a baby and toddler when you were learning to walk laid the foundation for you to run, jump, and hop later! You will often see OTs crawling around on the floor with our clients and using different equipment such as therapy balls, scooter boards, and balance beams to promote movement and environmental exploration.  

Next time you talk with your occupational therapist – feel free to ask him or her how they use play and movement in sessions to promote skill development. We are always happy to share our ideas and explain the “why” behind our therapy techniques!  

Our occupational therapy team is excited to continue to contribute to our Partners’ blog this year to offer insight into our field. Be on the lookout for more posts from our occupational therapists and certified occupational therapy assistants!