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How Can Occupational Therapy Help My Child?

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is a branch of healthcare that utilizes everyday activities to promote an individual’s health, well-being, and participation in meaningful and important activities of daily living. For the pediatric population, an occupational therapist’s job is to help children obtain the skills they need to participate in daily life as independently as possible, by working directly with the child and their family members.

One thing that a pediatric occupational therapist will stress is that play is a child’s most important occupation. Most of a child’s learning happens through play and this is what supports their overall development. Many occupational therapy interventions will be play-based, meaning we will incorporate play into our sessions so that children have fun while also getting the most out of the therapy sessions. When done this way, children are able to learn the skills they need to be as independent as possible, while also enhancing their creativity and confidence!

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play IS serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” - Fred Rogers

Most young children (ages 0-3 years) get referred to occupational therapy when it is discovered that they are not hitting their developmental milestones, which are a critical part of development. For older children (ages 4-17 years), it is common to be referred to occupational therapy for concerns regarding motor skills, feeding troubles, challenges with regulation, and overall decreased independence in their activities of daily living.

Occupational therapists look at various aspects of a child’s life to determine what is impacting their participation and independence. Below is a brief list of areas that occupational therapists can help your child and family with:

Sensory Processing: this is how we interpret sensory information & respond appropriately. An OT will analyze your child’s sensory profile and provide targeted input to enhance behavioral & physical functioning.

Self-Regulation: this refers to our ability to manage emotions, impulsive behavior, attention, and social interactions. An OT can assist with identifying triggers of dysregulation and will offer strategies to regulate.

Motor Skills: these are the skills that impact how a child moves throughout their day. OT intervention can improve coordination of the hands (fine), body (gross), and eyes (visual), as well as motor planning novel actions.

Executive Functioning: this is a set of skills that involve planning, sequencing, problem-solving, and managing routines. OT can help individuals create, follow, and transition between daily routines.

Adaptive Behavior: these behaviors include self-care tasks, such as grooming, dressing, bathing, and toileting. Intervention in this area may address managing buttons, tying shoes, or reviewing calming strategies for a haircut.

Feeding: feeding relies on proper sensory processing, oral motor development, utensil use, mealtime structure and routines, interoception to read hunger and satiety cues, and regulation. An OT can help support these areas of need for a better feeding experience for your child and your family.

Rest and Sleep: these are essential to children’s development, learning and memory, and regulation. An OT can provide insight into managing bedtime routines and sleep hygiene techniques.

Play: this is the primary occupation of children and youth. OT focuses on fostering children’s creativity, motor skills, and social interactions to enhance play.

If your child is facing challenges in any of these areas, call us to schedule an occupational therapy evaluation!

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