Occupational therapy (OT) is the use of evaluation and intervention to develop and maintain the meaningful day to day activities or occupations of individuals or groups. It is an allied health profession executed by occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants. OTs are often involved with people with disabilities, mental health issues, injuries or impairments.
The early years of your child’s life are extremely important as in these years the social, cognitive, and physical development and growth of your child takes place. The initial three years are very critical as a child’s brain evolves during this phase.
Occupational therapists enable people of all ages to live life comfortably by helping them promote health, and live better with illness, injury or disability. OT interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate in school and social activities, helping people recovering from illness/ injury to regain skills, and providing support to older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
What can be accomplished through OT?
Occupational therapists work with children in the following areas:
Improving fine motor skills so they can grasp and release toys and develop good handwriting skills.
Addressing hand-eye coordination to improve kids’ play and school skills (hitting a target, batting a ball, copying from a blackboard, etc.).
Learning basic tasks (such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and feeding themselves).
Maintaining positive behaviors in all environments (e.g., instead of hitting others or acting out, using positive ways to deal with anger, such as writing about feelings or participating in a physical activity.
Evaluating the need for specialized equipment, such as wheelchairs, splints, bathing equipment, dressing devices, or communication aids.
Improving attention and social skills to allow development of interpersonal relationships.
Pediatric occupational therapy has a number of benefits:
Helps with Routine Activities :
- Occupational therapy helps young ones who encounter difficulties in various daily activities such as brushing their teeth, toileting, dressing, writing and drawing, etc. Occupational therapy aims to develop these important self-help skills and daily living abilities in the children.
Improves Sensory Processing :
- It is often noticed that children with sensory processing problems are not able to adequately synthesize information using their basic five senses like sight, touch, smell, etc. Most of these children can experience under-sensitivity, over-sensitivity or even both at various places such as home, school, or playground.
A child with sensory processing issues can be easily distracted by adults or other children working nearby or talking at a normal level. They can feel discomfort or pain from swinging on a swing, playing on a jungle gym, or even walking by them and accidentally brushing against their bare skin.
Occupational therapy is helpful for these young ones as it can help them improve their ability to regulate sensory input so that they can participate in activities that kids love to do.
Improves Motor Development
Fine motor skills are small movements made with fingers, toes, wrists, lips, and tongue, like holding a small object or picking up a spoon. If your child is struggling with fine motor skills, they may have difficulties with one or more of the following:
Manipulating toys and puzzles
Holding a pencil
Using silverware or straws at an age-appropriate time
Using zippers, buttons, shoelaces
Coloring, drawing, tracing, prewriting shapes
Poor handwriting, letter/number formation
Not developing a hand dominance at an age-appropriate time
Avoiding tasks and games that require fine motor skills
Gross motor skills help us move and coordinate our arms, legs, and other body parts. They involve larger muscles that help us control our body. A child who is behind in movement, strength, and/or balance may appear clumsy or uncoordinated. They may also have difficulties with one or more of the following:
Going up and down stairs at an age appropriate time
Coordinating both sides of the body
Understanding the concept of right and left
Poor ball skills
Coloring, drawing, tracing, prewriting shapes
Visual processing helps us make sense of what we see. It is a process in our brain that interprets visual information. If your child is struggling with visual processing skills, he/she may have difficulties with one or more of the following:
Difficulty with spacing and sizing of letters
Difficulty recognizing letters
Difficulty copying shapes
Difficulty with visual tracking and crossing mid-line
Difficulty finding objects among other objects
Difficulty copying from near and far points
Difficulty with the concept of right and left
Your child may be developmentally delayed if they show one or more of the following:
Needs adult guidance to initiate play
Difficulty with imitative play
Wanders aimlessly without purposeful play
Moves quickly from one activity to the next
Does not explore toys appropriately
Participates in repetitive play for hours (e.g., lining up toys)
Does not join in with peers/siblings when playing
Does not understand concepts of sharing and turn taking
Remember that all children are different and develop these skill sets at their own pace. However, if you think your child may be struggling with adopting some of the skill areas above, you can contact an occupational therapist.
Sensory integration therapy
Neuro developmental therapy
Brain gym activity
Gross & fine motor skills
Pre writing skills/ hand writing skill training
Social skill training
Oromotor stimulation (NICU)