Occupational therapists work on groundbreaking CBeebies programme to get children moving
Occupational therapists, Dr Lynda Foulder-Hughes and SallyPayne, are part of the team bringing a unique children’s animation to our screens. Lynda and Sally, who volunteer at The Dyspraxia Foundation, worked as movement consultants on Tree Fu Tom, a fantasy adventure animation aimed at children aged 4-6 years old. Former Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Sophie Aldred are the voices for the main characters Tom (Aldred) and Twigs (Tennant) with the first episode shown on Monday 5 March, at 5.25pm.
Children watching help Tom cast ‘Tree Fu’ magic spells with gentle, fun physical movements which they are encouraged to copy, repeat and practice. Lynda and Sally used their skills as occupational therapists to design the movement sequences, working with the production team, writers and movement performance artist Nick Kellington, and using evidence-based exercises and techniques commonly used in occupational therapy practice. The spells aim to assist and enhance the development of strength and movement skills in all children (including those who have movement disorders and difficulties such as Dyspraxia) at a crucial time in their growth.
'It’s not just animation, its children’s animation with a purpose, and hopefully it’ll make a difference,' said Sally. 'Anything that helps raise awareness of developmental coordination disorders (DCD) is a good thing because compared to the other developmental conditions, DCD and dyspraxia have a much lower profile, and we know there are lots of young people out there who aren’t getting the help they need.'
Occupational therapy promotes health and wellbeing through activity or occupation which is meaningful to the individual – in this case fun and engaging movement sequences. It supports people of all ages with injury, illness or other conditions. Occupational therapists can help children with DCD and dyspraxia to overcome difficulties such as, poor co-ordination, handwriting development, dressing and eating problems and low self esteem. They use a range of techniques such as helping children to develop specific skills, for example through fine motor activities or a special handwriting programme; suggesting changes to the child's environment or finding different ways of doing things, like using a different pencil, trying a computer or teaching new ways to tie shoe laces.
'All the spells in Tree Fu Tom involve an element of repetition, because we know children with dyspraxia and DCD don’t process motor and sensory information in the same sort of way that typically-developing children would,' said Lynda. 'Often the short-term memory is quite poor but the long-term memory, once the information is acquired tends to be very good. Children with dyspraxia and DCD need far more exposure to practice and repetition. Each sequence of spell movements is done twice, so viewers can engage with the moves even better.'
'There’s nothing that compares to this innovative series and it’s such a great opportunity to engage with all children and help huge numbers of children who have dyspraxia and DCD. Children are going to love it.'
Image © BBC