Thanks for joining us on our blogging journey, although it’s slightly ironic that you are reading an article on your device about the pitfalls of technology!  Today, I want to share with you an occupational therapist’s perspective on the things in life that technology cannot replace and why.

Fine Motor Skills:

The ability to use our fingers to pick up and manipulate small items starts at a very young age.  As young as 6 months old, many babies will start to “rake” small items into their hands and then attempt to place into mouth (i.e. cheerios, puffs, etc). At first, this is not a refined motion; they may miss their mouth, but with practice it becomes more precise.  At 3 years old, most can pick up a small bead and place it onto a string to make a necklace.  Simply put, a smart phone or tablet is not able to teach these 3 dimensional fine motor precision tasks.  Sure, there are apps that require a certain amount of finger dexterity (certainly you must have precise movements to catch those Pokémon), but there is no way to replace creating a bead necklace, stacking blocks, banging two items together to make noise, or grasping a crayon or marker to write.  If these fine motor movements are not perfected, it makes it difficult for children to eat, write, play with toys, learn to type on a keyboard, open a package of food, and the list goes on.

Gross Motor Skills:

A smart phone or tablet does not address coordinating the two sides of your body to put on your clothing each morning.  The “simple” task of getting dressed is actually quite complicated. As occupational therapists, we are trained to analyze each aspect of getting dressed and then address any present impairment.  We may use an app to teach sequencing, but there is no replacement for actually dressing and undressing.  Maybe the big tech companies are working on robots to do this for us, but as of right now there is no such thing.

Other gross motor movements that technology cannot do for us would include playing catch, playing sports, jumping rope, riding a bike, mowing the lawn (maybe there is a Roomba for lawns?), climbing up the ladder at the park and then going down the slide, and, for those of us that love winter, sledding.

Tactile Input (our sense of touch):

There is only one way to develop our sense of touch, and that is through experience.  You cannot know how something will feel between your fingers or your toes, until you have actually touched it.  There are many items in our world; we may never touch them all, but if we are exposed to a wide variety of textures, temperatures, viscosities, etc, we can begin to make guesses of how it will feel just by looking at it.  Occupational therapists work with many children who have tactile aversions and this can affect their every day function.  There is not a technology replacement for developing our sense of touch.

Oral Input (eating, taste):

This one is self-explanatory, but another area where occupational therapists help children is with feeding therapy.  We work to expand the variety of foods for picky eaters or problem feeders.

Exploring Nature:

The sound of the wind rustling through the leaves, the smell of the blooming flowers, the water rushing through the river, the feel of the cold lake water as you jump in on a hot day, the feel of grass between your toes, the distinct squeaking noise sand makes, the wind blowing through a wheat field, the birds chirping, the taste of a freshly picked apple, climbing to the top of the hill and rolling down.

I think I hit on all of our sensory systems (Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch) and the two less talked about Proprioception and Vestibular.  Proprioception is how our bodies know where they are in relation to everything around us. The Vestibular system is located in our inner ear and gives us our balance system and our way of knowing where our heads are located.  A smart phone, tablet, computer, or any other type of technology device is no replacement for all the knowledge and experience we get from nature.

In conclusion, I did not even come close to covering all the things in life that technology cannot replace.  There are many, many more but my goal was to provide insights into the things we need to make sure we don’t forget just because of the convenience that has been created through technological advances.

I also want to share that I don’t think technology is a bad thing.  It is an awesome resource to have and I use it every day.  I would be lost without my phone, watch, computer, digital mirrorless camera, and my personal technology love list continues. I will occasionally use my iPad during a session with children.  There are apps that are motivating to learn how to write letters, such as Letter School.  I use a stylus and we choose which letters to learn.  It is a really cute and motivating app. I also use the iPad for teaching cause and effect, finger isolation, finger dexterity, visual focus, visual tracking, sustained and divided attention, and many other skills.  The point I am trying to make is that I don’t want us to lose sight of the “real world” by becoming lost in technology.  So put down your phone or shut your laptop, and enjoy your surroundings (the sights, smells, sounds, textures on your fingers, taste, notice where your body is located)!

Thanks for reading!

Amber Harvey OTR/L