Understanding Occupational Therapy

Typically, children learn to master every day activities and skills as they reach various developmental milestones. However, some children have trouble navigating and exploring the world around them and need help to develop these skills. This is where Occupational Therapy (OT) steps in, mainly to help with skills that require motor coordination, balance and movement. While OT mainly focuses on mastering these skills, developing the independence that comes with it also boosts children's self-esteem and confidence. The core of OT is to help children adapt and gain independence by overcoming challenges that their special needs or disabilities bring about. Occupational Therapists can help children adapt and gain independence by teaching them basic self-care, improving their fine & gross motor abilities, ensuring they develop age-appropriate skills.

Occupational Therapy is a popular choice of therapy when it comes to helping children with developmental delays and especially those with motor skills challenges. While it helps children gain independence in various skills it is also used to help children who face physical, cognitive, sensory and emotional challenges stemming from various needs.  OT can be used in various settings and can help children improve their performance at school, home and various social settings . 

Does my child need Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy can become a necessity at any point of time. Although Occupational Therapists work with children of all ages, OT can also become necessary after a child has suffered an illness or injury and needs to relearn some skills previously mastered or adjust to a new disability. E.g.; learning to walk after suffering an injury. 

For children, OT can help with

1.Gross Motor Skills:

These are movements made by using our arms and legs and require coordination and balance. A child who has gross motor challenges might walk awkwardly or appear clumsy or uncoordinated. Some of the gross motor challenges include walking up and down the stairs, coordinating the  left and right side of the body, and understanding the concept of left and right side. 

2.Social and Behaviour Skills:

Children are social beings by nature. Having age-appropriate social skills is important for children to make friends, communicate and express their needs and feelings and adapt to the surroundings. Some children however might have problems managing their anger, delayed language skills, trouble adapting to school or any new environment. 

3.Sensory Processing Issues:

Some children are unable to process sensory stimuli correctly. This means they could be oversensitive to certain sounds, textures or tastes or even under-sensitive to stimuli which means they need more stimuli than usual to show a response.  

4.Oral Motor and Sensory Issues:

These refer to skills that require control of facial and oral muscles. A child with oral motor/sensory issues might have difficulty chewing food, be a picky eater, agreeing to eat only specific textures or tastes, drool excessively. They might not be able to drink using a cup or a straw as expected for their age or mouth objects far beyond the expected age. 

5.Fine Motor Skills :

Are skills that require coordination of fingers and dexterity. These are skills such as writing, grasping, holding and playing with a toy. Fine motor challenges can be such as being unable to manipulate toys and puzzles, using scissors, zippers, shoelaces. OT can help overcome difficulties with colouring, drawing, tracing, prewriting shapes, poor handwriting, letter/number formation

6.Self-care and Independence:  

Like learning to dress up, brush teeth, self-feeding. Some children need to learn how to use special equipment that helps with independence such as communication devices, a wheelchair, hearing aids. 

7.Developmental Delays:

Some children may not achieve developmental milestones as expected for their age. These delays can be with walking, crawling, being able to jump or climb. 

Occupational Therapists work with children with a wide range of conditions. These include

  • Children with ASD
  • Birth injuries
  • Chronic illness
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Developmental delays
  • Hand injuries
  • Post Surgery recovery
  • Sensory Processing Disorders

As with all interventions, timely intervention can bring the best outcomes. When children receive occupational therapy at the right time, it can help reduce the potential of developmental delays and help families meet the needs of their children’s unique needs.  Once a therapist conducts a complete evaluation of the child, they work together with parents to draw up goals for the child, based on priority and need. An occupational therapist will also train parents how to practice skills in various settings and frequency as it helps children master skills better.

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 achieving skills in certain areas and are far behind age- appropriate skills, it is best to reach out for an evaluation. 

Our Occupational Therapists at Tactopus can help you understand your child’s needs and draw up a plan for progress.  

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