Tuesday, September 26, 2017

AM Santai Workshop: Home Occupational Therapy Series @ We Rock The Spectrum

As an autism parent, one of the things that I'm constantly working on is empowering myself with knowledge on how to best help my son (and myself). Sometimes, for one reason or another, I can't rely too much on external services to cater to my son's needs. So rather than feel helpless and clueless, I'd rather do something about it. 

I was elated, therefore, when I learnt that Autisme Malaysia was organising a 3-part workshop on home occupational therapy at Arif's favourite kids' gym - We Rock The Spectrum (WRTS), Ara Damansara. WRTS was an excellent venue  for the workshop, as it enabled families to bring their kids along. For example, mum would be in the workshop and dad would be playing with the kids. But some participants, including myself, left our families at home. For me, personally, this was a rare "me time" incident :)

Group photo with fellow participants. Image courtesy of WRTS.

The workshop was conducted by Puan Zuraini Abd Karim, Senior Occupational Therapist at Prince Court Medical Centre. I feel she was great choice for this workshop, as she shared many valuable lessons and insights. It's also clear that she has a wealth of experience in this field and a deep understanding, compassion and passion for autism therapy and parenting.

AM Santai WRTS

Week 1
During the first week, she addressed the challenges of raising an autistic child, the issues our children are facing and how to understand them, as well as what can be done to help them. Throughout this first session, I found myself constantly nodding my head in agreement, because so much of what was said resonated within me.

It was almost like she wasn't just an occupational therapist. She was a psychologist too. It felt good to hear her address matters that had been plaguing the back of my mind. It felt good to have someone validate my fears, concerns and frustrations. She gets it.

Though I'm still quite new to autism parenting, I've become all too familiar with people who "don't get it." So when I come across someone who gets it, I'm just so grateful :) All too often, autism parents can feel completely alone in their journey and struggles, but being in this workshop, a welcoming, nurturing and understanding environment, is good for the soul. 

Armed with many pages of wonderful notes, I returned home inspired and encouraged. I couldn't wait for week 2!

Theory before practice - Puan Zuraini giving us a fast-paced intro to autism and the importance of occupational therapy.

Week 2
In the second session, Puan Zuraini addressed the abstract concepts that help explain the autism brain, how it works and how to help autistic kids cope better with their environment. She then introduced us to the basic framework of her 45-minute therapy session, which we would learn to do at home with our kids. The idea, she explains, is to get the body and brain ready for learning (I love this!).

Her approach combines a variety of exercises, like gross motor, vestibular, proprioceptive, rhythmic movement therapy, brain gym, fine motor and sensory play. She showed us a few ways to do these exercises using the materials that we may already have at home.

After the second session, some of us had lunch at Bijoex Restaurant, Damansara, which hosts Autism Cafe Project Malaysia on the weekends. I had the delicious Nasi Lemak Lobster and took home some roti jala for my husband. But the real treat was to meet the man with indomitable spirit who spearheaded this project, En Adli Yahya, his son Luqman and their friend Imran :)

With friends at Bijoex Restaurant with Autism Cafe Project's Luqman and Imran. En Adli was our camera man :)
Image courtesy of En Adli Yahya of ACPM.

The mouth-watering Lobster Nasi Lemak :) You have to try it for yourself!
Week 3
In our final session with Puan Zuraini, things were much more hands-on, as she showed us the types of games and activities that we can do with our kids both at home and with the gym equipment. The rule she says, is to follow gross motor/ vestibular activity with proprioceptive activity.

She also reminded us to keep making these activities more challenging for our kids, as to continually challenge and 'provoke' their response. As parents, we need to know if our child is overstimulated or understimulated, and we need to get them to a "just right" state. All these exercises may seem like child's play, but they are powerful, as they can help build pathways in the child's brain. After all, children learn through play, a concept that I hold near and dear to my heart.

Our very hands-on trainer showing us how it's done.

We also learned how to properly use the gym equipment to meet our children's specific needs.

With the new knowledge gained, participants left WRTS that day filled with ideas and perhaps still a few nagging questions on how to apply what we learnt over the next 6 weeks and beyond. Nevertheless, this workshop has been a wonderful experience for me, because I learnt many things and made many wonderful friends :)

If you were a participant in the workshop and are looking for ideas for gross motor, fine motor and brain gym exercises for your child, do visit my Pinterest pages for some ideas:

Therapeutic Activities: https://www.pinterest.com/adlineaghani/autism-therapy-home/
Brain gym exercises: https://www.pinterest.com/adlineaghani/autism-therapy-rmt-brain-gym/

Join Autisme Malaysia!

Besides registering for the workshop, I also seized the opportunity to become a registered member of Autisme Malaysia, a task that I had delayed for far too long. If you're an autism parent, do consider joining, as you'll be able to join AM Santai workshops organised by Autisme Malaysia at a discounted price. Since July this year, there have been six AM Santai sessions held at WRTS, covering various specific topics that have not been covered elsewhere.

My membership card and workshop notes :)


amira shasmeen said...

Hi Adline .... fantastic write up and summary of those three sessions. Sayang i couldn't attend the final session. Hope to see you around someday

Adline Writes said...

Hi Amira, thank you so much for dropping by, your kind words and leaving a comment :) InshaAllah, we can always meet up at WRTS again!

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