OT Awareness

by Anna Lassman

April was OT awareness month, and as usual our Occupational Therapy department in the Philadelphia division likes to not only promote the profession, but share some practical knowledge with staff. This year we decided to piggy back on our Early Intervention (EI) Center staff celebration with an activity for staff that earned them a chance to win one of 2 gift baskets.

One of the important foundational skills for hand function is tactile perception. Stereognosis is a unique skill of tactile perception. It is the ability to identify objects through touch. When a person handles a material, he or she sends touch signals to the brain, and the brain identifies the object. It is important for overall hand function and developing grasp patterns, as well as dexterity and ability to use materials. A person would explore the shape with their palm and fingers, and then use their memory of what things feel like. For example rough/smooth/ sharp or rounded edges, depth, weight, etc. In other words, what are the properties we may be looking for as we explore objects without hearing or vision assist?

In our game, staff were shown a card with 6 different 2D shapes, and asked to put their hand into a large box and match 1 object hidden in there. On an interesting side note, a number of staff was very hesitant to put their hand into a box when they couldn’t see what was in there, needing assurances that we were not trying to trick them.

This is a skill we use so often and are unaware of how many systems we are using to be successful. When I am driving and trying to find my chap stick in my purse compartment where I have other lipsticks as well as other wayward items, I think about this. Touching a counter top with crumbs or sticky substances, finding your keys in your pocket, anything that is identified without the benefit of other senses (hearing, vision) are examples of how we use this skill in our everyday life.

Anna Lassman has been an OT for 35 years, working in a variety of pediatric settings in New York, California and, for the past 18 years, in Pennsylvania. She has been with Easter Seals in the Philadelphia Division as the OT department head for 7 years. She has special interests working with infants and young children with feeding difficulties as well as working with children with neurological impairment. Her favorite aspect of her current job is the ability to mentor new practicing OT’s as they begin their career in the field. Anna loves the ocean and misses easy beach access, but loves the Philadelphia area.

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