You Want my Three-Year-Old to See an OT??

Jackson at Imua Family Services


My son’s school has been observing his behavior and thinks he could benefit from seeing an OT – Occupational Therapist. According to The American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy helps children to develop the underlying skills necessary for learning and performing specific tasks, but it also addresses social and behavioral skills. It can help with the child’s self-concept and confidence. Pediatric occupational therapy helps children develop the basic sensory awareness and motor skills needed for motor development, learning and healthy behavior. These include the following:

  • body awareness (proprioceptive sense)
  • coordination of movements between the two sides of the body (“crossing the midline”)
  • fine motor control and organization
  • motor planning
  • motor movements and coordination
  • gross motor coordination
  • ocular motor skills
  • visual perceptual skills
  • self-regulation
  • sensory modulation (reaction to stimulus)

“Occupational therapists not only work directly with the child, but also with the family, parents, caregivers and teachers in order to educate and reinforce specific skills and behaviors which will be used to improve and facilitate the child’s performance and functioning.”


At first, hearing that someone thought Jackson needed “help” was devastating. I blamed myself. We put him full-time for a week (while I was in a show on Oahu) as a trial period because our plans to have help fell through about a month before my departure. I was thankful the school was open to trying, but also a little nervous about him not being ready quite yet. By the end of the week, Jackson was acting out by wetting himself and displaying slightly aggressive behavior (among other things)… as a mother, I knew that was partially because of my absence – and it killed me. There were tears.


Upon my return, the school wanted to set up a meeting to talk about some of Jackson’s “issues”… at this point, I really felt that it all stemmed from being without mommy and not knowing how to express that frustration. To my surprise, the school had been noticing other things – that he puts things in his mouth that don’t belong there, he likes to roll around on the ground and into other kid’s spaces, he gets a bit overwhelmed by all of the activities in his environment and sometimes “tunes out” when you try to communicate with him and he rarely puts away his work but often needs to be redirected.


Honestly, to us, it sounded like normal 2/3-year-old behavior. We listened and took everything in… and decided to follow through on the school’s recommendation to get Jackson a sensory evaluation conducted by a certified OT. After all, it can’t hurt.


It was a bit of an ordeal getting an appointment. IMUA family services has a 0-3 program and a 3-year and up program and Jackson was about to turn three so they couldn’t secure an appointment for an evaluation or even put it into the system until his birthdate. Maui Center for Childhood Development, on the other hand, didn’t even have an appointment for another month and a half!


IMUA ended up setting up an appointment to conduct a multi-disciplinary evaluation of his development and senses. Usually this takes less than an hour but Jackson “didn’t fail enough” for them to stop evaluating so the poor kid went through 2 hours of questions and finally exhausted all the questions at the 6-year-old evaluation level.


Can’t say that didn’t make me feel REAL GOOD. lol My kid is SMART. ha ha! The flip side to this is that Jackson, even if he has minor sensory issues, will never qualify for DOE or State run services to help with any of those issues. I’ll quote the OT here, “Unfortunately, he would be one that falls through the cracks because he’s just too smart.” I guess that’s not a terrible problem to have!


We met with the OT and the head of our school also attended (greatly appreciated – they really do care about the kids) to discuss how to proceed. Fortunately, through IMUA these types of evaluations in the 0-3 program are FREE – I would recommend it to other parents that think their children may have some learning challenges. Once your child turns three though, the next step costs $$. Through IMUA they have a sliding scale based on your income, but usually not more than $75/hour or so. At MCCD it’s about $125/hour.


The OT at IMUA recommended we proceed with a  more specific, sensory evaluation to see if we could hone in on how to help Jackson and the school with keeping him on task and performing to his potential.


We set up a private session with Kiegan Blake at MCCD. *Side note: Jackson has really enjoyed himself at all of these “evaluations” – there are toys and the staff is always so friendly.* Kiegan immediately honed in on Jackson’s heightened sense being VISUAL. He walks into a room and notices every detail. He’s also a planner. He has an idea of how his day is going to go and doesn’t like to stray from that.


In our meeting with the school and Kiegan after her evaluation… the fact that he gets thrown off by people changing his plans without sufficient “transition time” totally made me cry! In a nutshell, that’s ME! Don’t you dare take me to Whole Foods when I was planning on eating at Alive And Well! lol I’ve already planned out my whole meal and a grocery list in my head. ha ha… I TOTALLY get it. Jackson also loves movement. He loves acceleration and twisting. All of these things make it a little more difficult for him to transition from one classroom activity to another without zooming around the room


I have to admit, the more we heard about his actions and what she thought was going on in his head, the more “on board” I was. I’m like every parent. I think my child is PERFECT just the way he is. BUT, I also really believe that every child – and every person on this planet! – has some type of challenge / issue / gift that affects the way they view the world and the way they conduct themselves on a daily basis. Taking Jackson to see an OT has actually become a POSITIVE thing for us.


I actually feel lucky that Jackson was singled out. Because of his evaluation we now have new tools to help us parent and the school has new tools to help him reach his potential in their classroom environment. I’ve been using the tools they suggested for just a couple of days but I already have seen a difference!


On another note, just want to say that my son really is a JOY. His teachers and classmates say he is the sweetest, most sensitive and empathetic little boy. He really cares about his friends and everyone around him. His personality truly warms my heart.  :)


Just posted my new blog: Our OT “tools” – putting them to the test!




IMUA Family Services

Maui Center for Child Development

Life’s still Swell…




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3 Responses

  1. 5 Tips for Prepping Older Sibling for Baby on the Way | Life's Swell says

    […] visual and our occupational therapist recommended these types of techniques for every day activities (see “You Want My 3-year-old to see an OT??” blog) – so we applied those techniques to this […]

  2. Putting the OT “Tools” to the Test! | Life's Swell says

    […]   See my blog about going to the Occupational Therapist and why. […]

  3. Mikey Burke says

    Kiegan Blake is AMAZING! She has done wonders for my son and our family, giving us the tools we need to help our little boy be the best version of himself! I had the same mommy guilt you had and then came to the realization that his diagnosis was the best thing that could have happened! It’s been 4 years now and we encounter new struggles and new strengths everyday! My best advice to you is to continue with Kiegan as the years go on because she is great at helping you navigate through all the different transitions in life! Keep up the great work!