Changing Lives One Activity at a Time .
Did you know that you are a work in progress? The newest research in human brain function shows that our brain chemistry, cells and anatomy are continuously reshaping to fit what we experience and what we frequently do every day. That explains how practicing anything improves performance. Great skill is not so much about being born gifted, as it is about being determined to become good at that thing, and then repeatedly acting on that determination. It’s a process, and it takes time and repetition to become comfortable and skilled at doing almost anything, whether it’s playing music or going to the grocery store.
What then happens when we reduce our actions and limit ourselves to only familiar activities that are easy to do? Our brains modify to fit those demands. Activities that may have been commonplace and easy for us when we did them more often can become very challenging, and even anxiety-laden. The less we do, the less we are comfortable doing or able to cope with… it’s a vicious cycle.
This is why, when we have a client whose daily or weekly activities have become reduced in their scope and variety, we immediately start by adding in new things to do that are selected to challenge them at a “just right” level for where they are at the time. Although the ultimate goal is usually large (like getting a job, going to college, or living independently), we start with small actions that are a small stretch, and then work up to the “real” goals as the client ‘s skills and self-confidence (and their trust in their OT) expand. The improvements made reflect improvements in brain functioning… pretty amazing, right?
Here is an example of a sequence of therapeutic activities that someone might do with their Bright Futures OT. Each activity would be suggested with the individual’s interests and abilities in mind, and planned with his or her active involvement: cooking at home; walking the neighborhood; bowling; buying a drink at a café; having lunch with someone new; volunteering and working alongside new people; talking with people who work in an industry of possible interest; touring a workplace of interest; completing job applications; practice interviewing; interviewing for a job; starting to work with support from the OT.
All done with lots of support, talking about, and showing how. Ultimately the client is happily working independently, and ready to bid Bright Futures a fond farewell.
The process can be shorter or longer, depending on so many factors, but it is always that—a process. By giving people the challenges they need, as they are able to achieve them, they can achieve and build upon their strengths.