What is Occupational Therapy (and how can it help my child?)

What is Occupational Therapy?

Your child has survived the first two months of school and you think all is going well. Then, you receive the news that your child is struggling. 

They are having difficulties sitting still in a chair or keeping their hands to themselves. Perhaps they keep dropping objects out of their hands or it takes them a long time to complete written assignments. Maybe they are consistently having meltdowns in class, having trouble attending to tasks, or even just listening to instructions. 

As a parent, this is hard to hear.  Are these difficulties something they’ll grow out of, or are they just clumsy? Is this a Nature vs. Nurture situation? Are the other kids doing it, too? You want to do what’s best for them, but not sure how to go about it or even how to personally relate. 

Well, there are a few options that can help in the field of Occupational Therapy.

Pediatric Occupational therapists (OTs) help children who have difficulties carrying out everyday functional activities. Exercises/treatments are tailored to the child’s needs, based on assessments, observations, and interviews from family and teachers. 

Occupational therapists will often use simple play or activities as a vehicle to address functional areas, like:

  • Attention and how a child physically and emotionally respond to challenging situations
  • Maintaining a standing or seated position over time 
  • Handwriting or reading 
  • Handling and manipulating small objects, like crayons or food utensils
  • Physical participation regarding play and/or organized sports 
  • A child understanding where they are in space and in turn, how they relate to objects and others around them, like standing in line
  • How a child moves their body or how they respond to movement
  • Improving written communication skills such as writing their name or full sentences
  • Improving self-care skills like dressing, feeding, and bathing
  • Improving work behaviors necessary for completing tasks essential to a project

Your OT would identify the barriers that interfere with your child’s functional performance, adapt activities, materials, and environmental conditions so they can participate in various environments, and teach skills to kids and their families to extend therapy at home.

How do I get a referral for OT?

Children may qualify for Occupational Therapy services through the school with an IEP. You can request for an educational evaluation at any time to determine your child qualifies. If they do qualify, they may receive these services directly (one-to-one or small group) or as a consultation-only (suggestions to the teacher) basis. 

Another option is through a doctor’s referral. Private OT services which can be covered by insurance. 

Also, you can help your child develop and refine developmental, sensory, motor, and cognitive skills by doing a variety of hands-on activities suggested by therapists to promote confidence and independence. 

Once your child’s skill and behaviors are assessed, you will know where to start on the road to treatment. All of a sudden, the monumental difficulties won’t seem so daunting. And luckily, most of the exercises and activities that will help your child’s abilities can be done right at home.

Sources:
Occupational Therapy: What You Need to Know, Understood.org.

What is Occupational Therapy?

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