The regular person probably understands that an occupational therapist is good at helping people get back to work – but may not know beyond that what an OT does.
An OT has an amazing range of skills and can help with a huge number of conditions. There are quite a few situations in which occupational therapy can offer incredible help to developing children at important stages of their lives.
Let’s have a look at some of the conditions and situations that an OT can help with and see what this wonderful professional can do for your child.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy for children is a health treatment focused to help improve motor skills, balance, and coordination. It helps people who struggle with everyday tasks, and can be of great help to children who are having trouble with basic motor tasks.
Occupational therapy focuses on improving fine and gross motor skills as well as general motor planning. It also helps children who face difficulties with self-regulation and sensory processing.
Kids may have trouble with:
- Getting dressed and dealing with buttons, zips and fasteners
- Daily hygiene like wiping their bottom or brushing their teeth
- Writing and drawing
- Using scissors
- Using a knife and fork
- Packing a bag or opening and closing lunchboxes
- Throwing and catching a ball
- Managing social interactions
- Managing anger, fear and frustration
- Maintaining attention and focus
- Handling tasks that require a shift in focus or more than one step
- Responding appropriately to social situations and sensory triggers.
Because it affects sensory processing and coordination, children can have trouble with tasks that require shifting attention, such as copying notes from the board. It also helps them with reacting appropriately to sensory information and social interactions, including self-regulation.
How Do Children Benefit from Occupational Therapy?
Your child may struggle with daily tasks for any number of reasons, including physical, psychological or emotional difficulties, developmental delay or intellectual disability. The beauty of a good occupational therapist is that it doesn’t matter what causes or triggers your child’s particular struggles – they can still help.
Occupational therapists, especially those that work with children, have an excellent manner and high levels of patience. They will work with your child to create a plan and schedule of activities to help with their specific challenges. And understand the best ways to encourage them through this time.
Occupational therapists will consider all aspects of your child’s development including thinking and speech as well as physical abilities. They look at the environment around your child and can suggest improvements to adjust specific barriers that may be holding your child back.
Occupational therapy will help your child with their independent skills, and with learning, playing and socialising. If developmentally your child seems to be struggling with any of these areas, then an OT may help.
When a child is struggling with motor skills and coordination this affects many daily skills, including tasks they need to complete in everyday life and those that will help them progress at school. Kids who struggle in these areas can have their learning and development held back.
How Can an OT Help My Child?
Occupational therapy is very specifically tailored to your child and their needs. The OT will conduct a comprehensive assessment to work out where your child is up to developmentally and where they are struggling.
It can help children who are diagnosed with ADHD or who are on the Autism Spectrum, as well as kids with conditions such as cerebral palsy. It helps greatly with developmental coordination disorder, also known as dyspraxia and other conditions including dyslexia, dysgraphia, and visual processing and executive functioning issues.
And the earlier your child starts to get help from an OT, the better for them. Like many things, early intervention means that treatment is more effective.
When children struggle with motor skills and coordination it can have a big effect on their self-confidence. They may feel clumsy or different from their peers and become embarrassed to do things at school.
And it can affect their ability to look after themselves and develop basic self-care routines – struggling with this can also impact their confidence. If they see younger siblings getting an easier handle on seemingly simple tasks like getting dressed and brushing their hair, it is easy to see why a struggling child could get upset.
Even small improvements with everyday tasks can greatly help their self-esteem. And can often be the boost they need to face more challenges head-on.
If your child is struggling at preschool or school, including their attention and focus, their learning and their social skills, occupational therapy may help. Often naughty behaviour or acting out can come as a result of struggling in everyday tasks. And may be your child’s way of showing frustration or covering up struggles they are embarrassed to share.
What Kinds of Things Might an OT do with My Child?
Full body exercises and stretches may help children with attention or focus challenges, before they sit down to do homework.
Multisensory techniques can help with fine motor skills like improving messy handwriting.
Specific fine motor tasks like using scissors to follow lines on paper, or using tweezers to pick up various items.
What Can I Do?
If you feel that an OT may help your child, you can either talk to their teacher or a GP. Some schools can recommend an OT for you and some kids can get government assistance to help pay for it. You can find an OT near you using this website:
There are lots of activities you can try with your child to help them with motor skills and coordination. You might find some useful resources here.
If you found this article helpful, you may also like this article on ‘Is My Child Autistic?’ which can be found here https://www.schoolmumscorner.com/is-my-child-autistic-2/