What is Occupational Therapy?
A child has many ‘occupations’ or meaningful activities that they participate in daily: playing, learning and socializing. For children, the goal of Occupational Therapy is focused on ensuring that a child is able to functionally participate in and succeed in these activities throughout their day.
Teachers teach children. Occupational Therapists facilitate the ability to learn. Pediatric Occupational Therapy gives children the opportunity to engage in activities that are fun, meaningful and most importantly, provide them with the foundations of development that are necessary to excel in their lives, both academically and socially.
How do I know if my child needs Occupational Therapy?
If your child experiences any of the following, you may want to consult with an OT:
- Difficulty with Self-Care activities (dressing, feeding & utensil use)
- Difficulty with participating in coloring/handwriting/scissor use activities
- Difficulty with Visual Attention (not looking at a task or displaying poor eye contact with others)
- Tactile Defensiveness (avoids sticky/wet textures or has behavioral outbursts during bathing/oral hygiene)
- Seeking or Avoiding behaviors (purposefully crashing into people or things or avoiding loud sounds in multiple environments)
- Difficulty with motor planning and/or motor coordination (prefers to watch others on the playground rather than participating in activities)
- Difficulty planning, sequencing or organizing activities that involve multiple steps
- Difficulty with transitions and flexibility (is unable to deal with unexpected changes in routine)
What will my child be working on in Occupational Therapy?
As every child is unique, every OT session is tailored to address your child’s specific needs. These needs may include:
- Letter Formation
- Letter Sizing
- Letter Spacing / Margin Adherence / Line Adherence
- Pencil Grasp & Endurance
- Difficulties opening and closing containers, buttons, zippers, etc.
- Self – Care (e.g. dressing, feeding / utensil use, hygiene)
- Decreased hand strength
- Dexterity / Bilateral Coordination (using both hands together)
- Difficulties processing and organizing visual information from the environment
- Difficulties sizing, spacing and / or copying written words
- Difficulties with hand-eye coordination
- Motor Planning & Motor Coordination
- Tactile Defensiveness
- Seeking / Avoiding Behaviors
- Difficulties with Self-Regulation
- Safety / Body Awareness
Executive Functioning / Attention to Task
- Difficulties with organizing, planning and sequencing
- Difficulties sustaining attention
- Difficulties with flexibility and transitions
Why Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy?
Both are important, and in the pediatric clinic setting, sometimes they look as if they are working on the same thing. However, depending on the type of problem, Occupational Therapy may be more appropriate.
Simply put, PTs work with muscle strength and flexibility as well as the way a child is performing movements throughout their daily lives.
OTs help kids participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). A child’s occupation ranges from play to school-work. OTs are also concerned with a child’s participation in movement however rather than focusing on movement through a biomechanical approach, treatments focus on encouraging movement through play and participation in daily activities such as dressing, feeding, grooming, paying attention in class, handwriting and the ability to participate in other age-appropriate activities. OTs take a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on living the best possible life.