My name is Scott Russo. I am an Occupational Therapist currently working for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. I also maintain a Physical Therapist Assistant License, and I work for Achievement Products for Special Needs as a consultant for its special needs catalog.
I have been working in the therapy field for over 20 years and have spent the last 12 years specializing in the realm of school based special needs. Over these years I have had the opportunity to work with children from the ages of birth to 22, and with a wide variety of disabilities and severities, ranging from the very severely impaired child to children who are fully included in regular education with minimal disability.
As a school based Occupational Therapist, my job is to assess a child’s functioning in the specific school setting. This includes looking at all aspects of the child’s school day both in and out of the classroom. This allows for a great deal of creativity in the use of toys and academic materials to assist the child in attaining skills in a fun and motivating fashion. As part of my job, I am constantly evaluating play materials and also everyday materials for their use in therapy sessions.
Most often, toys are my therapy tools and therapeutic use can often look different than the intended use for the toy. For example one of my favorite therapy devices is dough. Dough can be used for hand strengthening, visual motor skills, and sensory processing skills. Dough can be used to assist in developing gross motor skills in the arms and shoulders as well as developing precision finger skills. I have also found dough to be one of the best ways to assist a child with writing and cutting because the motivation to perform these activities with dough is so much greater than with paper and pencil. Beautiful in its simplicity, dough can be a full therapy session. Exploring the endless possibilities of simple play items such as dough is the core of my everyday employment duties.
Editors Note: Achievement Products for Special Needs offers both a gluten-free dough for children who are wheat and gluten sensitive, and a scented dough for added sensory input. Find them both on the Achievement Products for Special Needs website: Gluten-Free Dough APDDO; Scented Dough APDSENDO.