It is mind boggling that we are already through the first month of 2020. If January was anything for you like it was for me, you will be looking back on a month of re-adjusting after the Christmas period and some very hard work!
Before we get too deep into 2020, I do feel it necessary to reflect on 2019 as it was such an amazing year for me. It is no secret that I love working with kids to help them overcome those tasks they need to do, or want to do, at home or school. And in 2019 I worked at maximum capacity in my day to day therapy practice with kids, their families and schools, and in many cases the wider team of professionals that support them. I know how tough it was, and is, for them to go through the process of working extra hard at things that others their age seem to do without second thought. But time and time again I have stood in awe of the resilience ‘my kids’ have shown, and what they have achieved!
Many of you will know that I work with kids with a wide range of needs. But I have a particular soft spot for working with kids who have dual or multiple exceptionality (DME) as it is called here in the UK, or twice exceptional (2E) as it is called in some other countries. Maybe it is because that up to now, as far as I know, not many occupational therapists have really understood and/or worked with DME kids. Yet we are some of the best suited professionals to help, so if I don’t actively raise awareness both among families of DME kids and other occupational therapists, then who will?
For reference, DME refers to children who are considered to have high learning potential (HLP) or who are gifted, but who also have a special educational need or disability. This can include a range of difficulties such as having Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) or Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia etc.
In February last year I was awarded the Above and Beyond Inspirational Therapist Award 2019, for my work in helping DME kids and their families, and promoting the importance of occupational therapy both nationally and internationally.
A short month and half later I was able to present a 2 day course, totally for free, to 11 occupational therapists on the topic: ‘Occupational Therapy for children with High Learning Potential and Dual or Multiple Exceptionality’. I presented this course in collaboration with Potential Plus UK – a national charity based in my hometown of Milton Keynes. This is a great charity with over 50 years experience of supporting HLP children and their families. The positive feedback on the course was overwhelming, and I am pleased to report that I will again be able to present the course for free this coming March 2020, to a higher number of occupational therapists. Both courses have been funded by grants made available by two different charities concerned with helping HLP kids, who prefer to remain anonymous. I feel very fortunate and thankful for their support!
As 2019 progressed, I saw my dream come true of launching my first free online course for parents of DME kids who particularly struggle to cope with noise as a result of auditory sensory processing difficulties, which by the way takes less than an hour to complete, called:
I have received very positive feedback from those who have gone through the course. But parents have also asked for a more comprehensive course on how to help their DME kids with not just auditory sensitivities, but other difficulties arising from sensory processing disorder. And so I have embarked on the long process of recording my course:
This course is now in editing stages with a planned launch date of April / May 2020, and will be a paid course. It is the adapted version of a course I have presented in person to numerous parents of DME kids, and I can therefore confidently say that I know it will make a huge positive and empowering impact on those who go through it!
In October last year I was invited to speak about my work at an international conference for professionals from various European countries, hosted in the stunning Cotswolds. It was truly an honour. Alongside this conference I was also able to share some practical ideas of how to help DME kids, with Potential Plus UK assessors. These people have such a wealth of knowledge themselves that I learnt just as much from them as they did from me. Below is a photo of me explaining an activity that I often do with my DME kids in sessions, in which we make a scale and then add some weights to demonstrate that ‘the size of the reaction needs to match the size of the problem’. This is a concept that I have adapted from the popular ‘Zones of Regulation’ program by US based occupational therapist Leah M. Kuyper.
Lastly, in November, I was able to speak at The OT Show 2019 on the topic: ‘Occupational Therapy – the vital link for children with DME’. Over 50 occupational therapists attended, and the response was overwhelming.
I love my work. I love making a difference. I love ‘changing the world ONE CHILD AT A TIME!’ And I am taking as many of you along on my quest – whether parent or professional!
Till next time.
Your Specialist Paediatric Occupational Therapist