The Occupational Therapy Fairy

ot fairy

My son’s autism diagnosis shocked me less than his proposed therapy schedule. The clinicians proclaimed that he needed 25-35 hours of therapy. Without it, he may not have the tools to be mainstreamed in school.

I struggled with this mightily.

Specialists came to our home and saw him at the early intervention center. He is not the child you see, I explained. Liev was sweet, playful, and bright. He only ran around maniacally because everything was so new. Sympathetic smiles and pity faces were stock responses.

Let me emphasize–I don’t begrudge the efforts of the regional autism center. Several staff members, however, left me feeling patronized and disbelieved.

For two years I absorbed book after book about autism therapy—A.B.A., Floortime, DIR, and RDI. All of these treatments had one thing in common–they sort of worked, some of the time.

Ultimately, when Liev was in a teachable place—he learned. When Liev was disorganized, these interventions failed.

Visits from Liev’s early intervention SLP unnerved us. She tried to engage my son with new toys and uber-enthusiasm. He scurried away from her at every opportunity. Another specialist launched a power struggle with him over throwing toys. As if discipline always worked!

Our final therapist turned treatment around. Her gifted son had Asperger’s. Introducing us to a strength-based approach, she empowered our entire family. Our services evolved into supportive and constructive plans. Confidence in our parenting returned.

The trend of playing to Liev’s strengths quadrupled in preschool, under Ms. Jerri’s watchful eye. Her team’s high quality attention, structure and visual supports brought us order and coping skills.Liev thrived. I thrived too! I had a team of professionals dispensing expert advice.

Ms. Jerri introduced us to Occupational Therapy (OT).

WebMD’s definition of OT goals explains it best:

The overall goal of occupational therapy is to help the person with autism improve his or her quality of life. This includes life at home and at school. The therapist helps introduce, maintain, and improve skills. That way, people with autism can be as independent as possible.

OT is one of my top three of Rockin’ Autism Therapies (the other two being social stories and rewards). Without fail, these three have helped us through many difficult days. OT strategies are our first line of action.


Because Liev’s biggest obstacle to learning is his anxiety level. Too much stress or excitement whips him into an obsessive, impatient frenzy. He is too overwhelmed to learn.

Our school OT, Ms. Wetherbee, keeps Liev grounded and focused in class. He can’t process vital social stories or work toward goals until his anxiety is tamed. Her interventions build awareness and give him control.

Ms. Wetherbee compares her work to soothing an infant:

“You have calming strategies for when an infant is crying and sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. You can try a strategy that didn’t work earlier–sometimes it will work later. Sometimes something stops working and then you try it again months later, and it works. Just keep trying!”

This simplifies her work greatly, but the core of her intervention is anxiety management. This is exactly what our whole family needs!The best thing I have learned about OT is how diverse and fun the approach is.

I have plenty of tricks to share with you (coming soon!). Her strategies are concrete (yay!) and dissipate anxiety.

Until then, please enjoy the collage Liev and I put together of Ms. Wetherbee and her magic OT tools!

This is a re-post while I cope with my son’s return to school. Hope you enjoyed!

Digital elements by Fiddlette’s Studio.

8 thoughts on “The Occupational Therapy Fairy

  1. The right therapist makes all the difference! I’m glad that you found something that works for your family. Mostly, have found that varying approaches from all sorts of different programs works in our varied spectrum household. It’s individual and to find someone that can be attuned to your child’s individual needs at any given time is priceless!

    1. Inner Aspie,

      Thank you for the wisdom. The presentation of ASD is so complicated and broad that the only successful approach is an eclectic one. That, and a wonderful therapist. Thank you for stopping by!


  2. Love the picture! I really believe that OT is a fantastic foundational therapy as well. It has made a big difference in my boys’ ability to become open to learning in all areas. So glad you have found someone who is truly helping.

    1. Thank you Heather!

      I am glad that it helps you too. Regulation is one of our biggest daily challenges so techniques that keep Tyoma in the zone are celebrated. We are fortunate to have such a wonderful team at T’s school.

  3. Your OT fairy is so pretty, makes me almost wish I had of finished my OT course…
    I love this bit “all of these treatments had one thing in common–they sort of worked, some of the time.” that is the absolute truth of it. O.T. has such a valuable perspective in allied health!

    1. Thank you Hannah!

      Forgive my lateness, weekends are chaotic here. All three of us need a visual schedule and somebody to organize it!

      OT is so helpful to us. It is never to late to learn more. I am amazed by the information I have found online and in bookstores. Every child has their own needs, but I strongly feel that OT is as universally necessary as food! I appreciate you visiting and commenting!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.