Occupational Therapy Resources for Parents and Professionals

Occupational therapy uses everyday life activities to promote health, well-being, and quality of life in daily activities. With consistent and accessible therapy, children with autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, and other special needs can live their best lives.


We provide therapy services to neurodiverse children in areas where access to such support is not widely available.


Sensory Integration

Sensory integration, also known as sensory processing, is the process by which our brain recognizes and responds to the information our senses provide. So, just as it sounds, sensory integration is the process of how we integrate things that we see, taste, smell, touch, or hear. 

For children on the autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing often looks a little different and can be a key indicator for diagnosing autism in children. 

Occupational Therapy is able to use a number of activities to help children that are either hyper or hypo sensitive to different sensories be able to better process and function in the world around them. These activities specifically help children to; 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy (PT) is care that aims to ease pain and help you function, move, and live better. For children with special needs, physical therapy focuses on a child's ability to move as independently as possible. Physical therapy can help child body functioning such as grasp patterns which can influence the level of independence a person has during daily tasks. For children who are physically disabled, therapy and the right mobility devices are needed to  participate in daily activities at eye level alongside peers and to increase quality of life.


OT in Schools

Much like in other settings, Occupational Therapy in schools focuses on using purposeful activity to facilitate a child's active participation in self-maintenance, academics, and play within school environments. When access to occupational therapy in school is consistently available, children with special needs can have a bright future and pursue their dreams. 

When we look at the Role of Occupational Therapy in Schools we are looking at the ability to build a child’s autonomy, confidence, and increase independence. In Jamaica there are currently 10 occupational therapists compared to the approximately 139,077 in the United States. Occupational Therapy plays an important role in helping to enhance a child’s ability to learn and thrive in their educational environment - this is what fuels our team to work towards increasing access to quality, consistent therapy in Jamaica.


Access to Therapy

According to the Statista Research Department there are approximately 410,000-540,000 people who self-identified as having a disability in Jamaica as of 2019. Children under 14 make 21% of that population (Unicef, 2018). Sadly, most children with disabilities in Jamaica aren’t getting the support they need. 

Access to therapy services in Jamaica are limited, often only being available in Kingston, which can mean hours of traveling for some families. This makes the proper, consistent care for a child to achieve a quality life simply unrealistic. Underserved children perpetuate cycles of poor physical and mental health, economic hardship, and illiteracy. 

An example of this, Nicola and her son, Badrick. Badrick was diagnosed with Infantile Spasms, also known as West syndrome. Badrick also has developmental delays and cerebral palsy. He can’t walk. If he needs to eat, his mom needs to feed him. Nicola and Badrick live a nearly two-hour drive from Kingston, because of the distance, Badrick cannot get therapy. 

Many therapy students from the Caribbean will complete their studies abroad and don’t return to their home countries after getting their degrees. This has led to a shortage of licensed therapists and contributed to the scarcity of affordable therapy services for children. For the few occupational therapists in Jamaica (currently 10), there is an absence of local training. We know that professional education creates accessibility, and creates opportunities for higher quality therapy for children in Jamaica. 

Smile A While supports schools for children with special needs in Jamaica by providing therapists, equipment, and funds for travel and professional development. This critical support can change the trajectory of a child’s life and lead to positive health and quality of life outcomes.


More Resources

Self determination is a person’s ability to decide what they want for their own life, what will bring them joy and satisfaction and allow them to live the life that they think fits them best. Especially when it comes to children, if they are not allowed to solve problems that make sense to them – it leads to alienation and learned helplessness. We aspire to help every differently-abled child live a fulfilling life by helping boost their success with simple choices such as choosing their outfit and packing a lunch before bed. 

When it comes to therapy, access to equipment and supplies needed to make therapy the most beneficial for your healing and health is crucial. A letter of medical necessity from your occupational therapist can help you get access to needed gear. Having access to the many wonderful developments of the modern world can enhance the quality of life for special needs youth.


OT in Jamaica

About 30% of children in Jamaica have special needs, according to The Mico University College, yet “only 313 of Jamaica’s 23,000 teacher cohort are trained in special education.” (Dr. Polly Bowes-Howell, The Gleaner, March 13, 2019). Further, 52% of Jamaicans with disabilities live in rural areas where resources to address their needs are nonexistent. 

Our goal is to build therapy to thrive in Jamaica, by improving education for skilled therapists on the island, get more skilled therapists to the island, and to remove barriers to therapy. 

One of our recent projects has been working with ECHO Autism to set up ECHO Autism Jamaica which is set to begin serving children and families in 2024. This innovative system allows professionals and caregivers to increase their confidence in identifying and treating autism and expand their knowledge about treatments and solutions.

Another pillar of our programming includes getting more skilled therapists to the island to provide services. Through our recent Splinting Clinic, we were able to teach 15 Jamaican medical professionals on how to create custom splints for special needs youth. We also were able to donate materials to make about 200 custom orthotic splints and shine a light on the challenges to serve special needs youth.