When does a child need Occupational Therapy?
Does your child have some difficulties in learning or doing simple activities at home or school? Or he is experiencing certain challenges that shouldn't be present in his age?
Then, you need to consider seeing an occupational therapist for better examination and help.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is an allied health profession that aims in helping individuals in restoring or developing the basic skills that they need in their daily life, in order to perform these tasks as independently as possible.
Occupational therapy helps individuals of all ages, from early childhood through late adulthood. The word ‘occupational’ refers to helping an individual in performing the required tasks, as well as the use of occupations or activities that appeal to the person as a mean of treatment.
Occupational therapy focuses on improving one’s quality of life, either through developing his different skill or by modifying the activities or the surrounding environment, in order to perform the task in the best possible way.
Who needs Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is not limited to rehabilitating individuals with disabilities only, it is a broad field that helps anyone who has encountered a problem or a dysfunction that affected performing his daily life tasks normally, this includes:
- Physical injuries such as fractures, burns, spinal cord injuries or strokes.
- Psychological problems that impede a person's performance of activities.
- The developmental disorders in children, whether they are physical such as Cerebral Palsy or intellectual disabilities such as Down Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder or any difficulties caused by a developmental delay.
- Occupational therapy supports children attending mainstream schools who are facing any slight difficulties in any learning aspect, such as holding a pencil or copying from the board, which may be caused due to slow learning or the presence of specific learning difficulty.
Occupational therapy for children
As we mentioned earlier, occupational therapy is concerned with one’s occupation, but is there an occupation for children?
Yes! Children’s occupation is to play and learn, and through these two functions, the child explores the world around him and develops various skills.
Occupational therapy evaluates the child from a holistic view, that is, it takes into account all cognitive, sensory, motor, linguistic, emotional and social aspects, and determines the strengths and weaknesses of the child, in addition to assessing his needs in different settings, whether at school or at home.
Accordingly, the presence of an occupational therapist within the work team is enriching as it provides the team with information regarding the child’s different needs in different environmental settings.
Occupational therapy uses different methods for therapy, which are determined by the occupational therapist based on the child’s strengths and weaknesses and his favorite activities, bearing in mind that each child has a different way and speed for learning.
A treatment plan is then developed with logical goals that are appropriate to the child’s age and parents’ priorities; for example, at the age of five years, the child is expected to hold the pencil in the correct way, but if the child at this stage cannot eat independently, then the priority here is to functionally develop spoon grasp before pencil grasp.
Does my child need occupational therapy sessions?
Occupational therapy provides its services to any child with developmental difficulties. Here are some indications that may suggest that your child needs to receive occupational therapy sessions:
- Any weaknesses/ delays in his gross motor skills; if your child has difficulty walking, balancing, or you notice that he is delayed in performing sports activities, riding a bike, climbing up and down the stairs, or even playing with the ball.
- Any weaknesses/delays in fine motor skills, such as, using the spoon, interlocking buttons, holding writing tools correctly, or coloring and drawing shapes and writing letters and words.
- Sensory problems; if you notice an exaggerated reaction in your child when exposed to some textures, sounds or movements, or his increased need to move or touch different things, or his lack of awareness regarding the concept of danger during his movement, or his inability to sit and focus for a suitable amount of time that enables him to learn.
- Difficulties in performing daily life tasks; such as eating, dressing, and personal hygiene.
- Any weakness or delay in the visual perception skills, such as, quickly forgetting learnt letters, inability to distinguish between similar letters, failure to distinguish between directions, difficulties in finding a specific item that is placed within a group of other items.
- Any weaknesses or delays in his playing skills; if your child has difficulty discovering the correct way to play games, or plays with games in a routine/stereotype manner, or if he does not participate in playing with other children, or does not accept loss during games.
If you notice one or some of these indicators in your child, do not hesitate to consult an occupational therapist as soon as possible, in order to help your child develop his age appropriate skills.
The role of the parents is very important starting from the beginning of the evaluation and during and after the treatment period, as in many cases, the child may not show all his strengths from the start, therefore, parents’ role here is to provide the therapist with this information.
Additionally, when developing the treatment plan, the therapist must take into consideration the parents’ priorities, however, it should be taken into account that the goals also should be logical and appropriate to the child’s age.
During and after the treatment period, and in order to achieve better results, parents must continue working on the goals in the child's natural environment, and continuous communication with the therapist to generalize any skill that the child has acquired in one of the situations.