Imagine a child falling behind because he or she has trouble trying to print, draw, or tie shoelaces all because of a fine motor delay, which affects the control and use of fine motor muscles in the hand.
“It’s with keeping up with peers related to printing and cutting and also self-help skills, so difficulties with dressing and undressing,” says Sheka Haleemdeen, an occupational therapist at Grandview Children’s Centre in Oshawa.
Currently there’s a gap in the system across the province, which means some children don’t get the help they need.
A new partnership with Grandview Children’s Centre will have Durham College occupational therapy students provide care for them.
“We have lots of children in the community that have fine motor delays, that are recognized but they’re not able to keep up with their schoolwork,” says Teresa Avvampato, program coordinator for the Occupational Therapist Assistant/Physiotherapist Assistant program. “There is no intervention offered publicly so parents are paying private for this service.”
Her years in the industry allowed her to see this gap and she came up with the idea for the DC Kids Clinic. Grandview’s role in the partnership is to refer families of discharged children, or families who never qualified for care.
Under the current model, OTs are contracted to go into schools to assess and consult but there’s no direct intervention.
Children must meet certain criteria to receive help after the age of six, such as continuing treatment for a neurological diagnosis such as cerebral palsy or autism.
So some families pay out of pocket but that can be expensive.
Paying for a private occupational therapist can range from $95 to $120 per hour, according to the professional fee guidelines set out by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.
DC has hired Haleemdeen part-time so she can oversee the sessions, which have students work one on one with small groups of children with fine motor delays.
With children between the ages of four and ten it’s important to make the therapy feel like fun and not work.
“When we’re doing interventions with children our interventions are very play based,” says Avvampato.
For example, to increase hand strength Haleemdeen has the kids work with theraputty. This putty has different degrees of toughness and will have small treasures hidden inside for the children to find.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for those families,” says Haleemdeen. “Just working at Grandview it’s tough even as a clinician for me to discharge those families I know need that little bit of support with that fine motor so it’s great for those kids who almost fall between the gaps.”
The clinics are ongoing, run three times per week until March 21 and have a one-time registration fee of $30.
Avvampato says she would like to keep the partnership going and continue the DC Kids Clinic.
“It’s a great opportunity for our program to give back to the community and to also give our students exposure to this setting,” she says.