Tina is 20 years old, lives with her grandparents and attends a day centre five days a week. Tina has cerebral palsy which affects all her limbs. She has profound and multiple learning disabilities and currently has no means of consistently communicating with others or interacting with her environment.
Reason For Referral
Tina was referred for occupational therapy to assess her ability to process visual and auditory (sound) information. The occupational therapist was also asked to look at Tina’s ability to use switches for communication and control her environment.
Occupational Therapy Assessment
The occupational therapist worked in close collaboration with the speech and language therapist. A physiotherapist was also involved to maintain Tina's joint mobility and manage her pain through regular stretching. Tina underwent an initial phase of assessment to establish her ability to make choices, use her limbs functionally and process auditory and visual information accurately.
Occupational Therapy Treatment Plan
Tina was offered 24 sessions of Occupational Therapy sessions over a 6 month period. The aim of these sessions was to increase Tina’s motivation to engage in activities and to use the switches provided. The sessions focussed on helping the staff who support Tina understand the role of the switches and how they may be used to communicate. It was vital that Tina felt successful in using the new technique as failure would most likely lead to low motivation to use them again. The switches were initially connected to music that Tina liked and helped her learn that she could control something herself. They were later developed into more complex systems such as enabling Tina to communicate ‘yes’ and ‘no’ with using a switch.
Tina engaged well with the sessions. She always appeared to enjoy them, laughing and smiling with the therapy team. She was able to learn to use the switches and began to use them in real life situations when making choices such as what food she wanted. Tina became quicker at spontaneously controlling her music and there was a noticeable increase in the amount of purposeful movement that Tina was able to do.
As a result of occupational therapy intervention and close collaboration with other professionals, Tina now has more control over her environment. She has a consistent and reliable method of communicating her choices. Her carers have reported that she smiles more and is often more willing to engage in activities and physiotherapy.