WHAT IS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY?
Your child’s life is made up of occupations, or everyday activities. These occupations include playing, learning, sleeping, interacting with friends, getting dressed, using fine motor and coordinated muscles while eating with utensils, brushing teeth, handwriting and other daily activities. Many of us generally don’t think about a child’s daily occupations until he or she has challenges doing them. Occupational therapy supports children of all ages—newborns to teenagers.
WHEN DOES MY CHILD NEED OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY?
RED FLAG CHECKLIST
Birth to 2 years of age:
- Not looking at caregiver’s face or making eye contact
- Not crawling and going directly from sitting to pulling up/walking
- Crawling in an abnormal pattern (deviating from traditional crawling or “army crawling” patterns)
- Strong hand preference with the exclusion of the other hand
- Not reaching across midline (not reaching across the center of the body)
- Not feeding self (either not finger feeding or not attempting to use spoon/fork)
- Not isolating index finger by 1 year (to either point or grab objects)
- Not displaying “showing/sharing” behaviors, which include the act of looking at a caregiver with an, “Isn’t that neat?” look on the child’s face, even if no words are used
- Poor self-soothing skills
3 to 5 years of age:
- Not engaging in pretend play
- Still using gross grasp (whole-hand grasp for crayon or pencil)
- Either always stationary or never stationary
- Consistently screaming rather than attempting to use words
- Not engaging in play with peers
- Consistently screaming with transitions
- Throwing tantrums significantly more often than peers
- Appearing overly sensitive to grooming tasks
6 to 8 years of age:
- Falling behind peers academically
- Difficulty following the teacher’s directions
- Unable to tie shoes
- Unable to cut food with a knife/fork
- Being labeled a “bad kid” (There are NO BAD KIDS, OT can help determine why the child may be displaying bad behaviors)
- Having difficulty engaging with peers on the playground and/or in extracurricular activities.
- Not having friends
- Immature handwriting skills (examples can include having difficulty remembering how to form letters, difficulty staying on the lines when writing, not always starting all the way to the left and moving to the right when writing sentences, handwriting appears messy or illegible).
- Poor organizational skills – forgets to turn in homework assignments, desk is messy, papers are messy, etc.
HOW CAN MY OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST HELP MY CHILD?
Occupational therapy supports a child’s and family’s ability to participate in daily activities, such as getting ready for bed or taking the bus to school. An occupational therapy practitioner will keep the focus on the things you and your child need and want to do—your child’s and family’s goals, your child’s activities, your child’s independence and function and success.
Occupational therapy services can help your child:
- Participate in everyday activities; for example, providing age appropriate toys for your infant or toddler so he or she can reach developmental milestones, and develop the skills to interact socially.
- Strengthen sensory processing skills needed for good attention and participation in daily life (please see sensory processing section for further detail)
- Strengthen and coordinate postural muscles to promote development of milestones such as rolling, sitting independently, crawling, and walking.
- Strengthen and coordinate fine motor muscles and promote grasping skills needed for tool/utensil use when writing, brushing teeth, and eating.
- Stay as healthy and productive as possible; for example, helping your middle schooler develop routines for completing homework assignments and providing fun, safe ways to engage in physical activities.
- Achieve goals and develop life skills; for example, helping your teenager with a developmental disability gain the skills to transition from high school toward further education, employment, and independent living as an adult.
- Occupational therapy practitioners also focus on prevention, promoting healthy lifestyles, and addressing mental health. For the young child, occupational therapy focuses on promoting growth and development and helps families with caregiving strategies.
- Help build self-esteem and confidence. Occupational therapy can provide your child the skill set and support to help them feel successful in their daily life which ultimately relates to improved quality of life.
- In short, an occupational therapy practitioner can help all children live life to its fullest.
Find more information and resources at www.aota.com