Occupational therapy can help patients manage many of the symptoms of Rett syndrome — a rare genetic disorder that causes neuromuscular abnormalities and delays in physical and cognitive development.

Goal of occupational therapy

For patients with Rett syndrome, the goal of occupational therapy is to reduce the burden of their physically and mentally debilitating symptoms, improve their functional abilities in daily activities, and increase their independence.

Occupational therapy tests

Before devising a program, an occupational therapist will usually conduct standardized tests and interviews to determine the exact needs of the patient. These evaluations can help the therapist determine the patient’s sensory skills or reactions to touch, sound, and movement; their motor skills such as balance, grasp, muscle tone, and hand dexterity; cognitive skills such as concentration, learning, and problem-solving; and environmental skills or how they adapt to their environment.

Some measurement tools used by occupational therapists include the quality of upper extremity skills test, WeeFIM, the developmental test of visual perception, Beery-Buktenica developmental test of visual-motor integration, video-based evaluations, and other cognitive assessments.

How occupational therapy can help

Occupational therapists often use social stories, verbal and auditory cues, play activities, and other special education tools to broaden essential skills in patients to enable them to increase their independence. They work closely with parents and teachers to adapt therapy goals for each child and design special education programs to enable the transition of special-needs children within schools and other public settings.

Occupational therapy also involves adapting the environment to meet the patient’s needs. For instance, occupational therapists may devise strategies to modify the physical structure that a patient uses, which includes specially designed bathrooms and ramps to help with daily activities such as feeding, washing, and toileting. The occupational therapist may also recommend the use of special walkers, beds, seating, and communication devices.

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