Washington Elks Therapy Program for Children
Four photos of Shastha

Four photos of Shastha

It had been a rough week at 13-year-old Shastha’s house. The normally sweet, smiling, and cooperative Shastha had suddenly started some new unwelcome behaviors at home and school including pushing, stomping, pinching, yelling, and throwing things. He seemed agitated and oppositional and there didn’t appear to be an outward health reason. Completing even the simplest tasks had become a challenge. His family wondered if this was the emergence of a typical teenage response for their non-verbal child.

Shastha, who has a genetic condition, has been seen by an Elks Therapist for the past year. He was working on improving his self-feeding, chewing and daily self-care skills as he appeared to be ready to be more independent in these areas. Shastha made progress over the past year, now helping to get dressed and able to feed himself using adaptive utensils. He is still working on drinking from a cup without help.

Now, as the therapist entered the home this week, it became clear that there was a bigger priority—helping to get to the root of these new behaviors. Because Shastha doesn’t speak, we couldn’t ask him what was going on, but his therapist was able to figure out that nearly all the new behaviors had a sensory component in common—pressure and deep body input which is technically called proprioception. So, they began a therapy session filled with proprioceptive and deep pressure activities. Pushing and pulling with Velcro toys, bouncing, and squishing with the large therapy ball, carrying heavy items, and some deep joint pressure. By the end of the session, Shastha was clearly smiling and much calmer. He was able to participate in a focused feeding session for several minutes without any of the new behaviors. His behaviors were simply his body’s way of trying to stay regulated!

Because his therapist was able to be in the home, and use items that the family has, they have been able to continue using these techniques daily to help Shastha stay regulated and calm much more of the time! Becoming a teenager can bring emotional, sensory, and behavioral changes that a non-verbal child may struggle with, and this is an example of just one more way that Occupational Therapy can help “Our Kids”.