A child’s occupation is play as this is how they learn and develop. Thus Occupational Therapists use activities that are playful, fun and meaningful to the children in order to develop or enhance the child’s skills. The areas that a child often struggles with include play, scholastic performance or areas of self-care. Challenges in these areas could potentially lead to difficulties in behavior, concentration or emotional control. In occupational therapy, we encourage development, independence, and rehabilitation through the practice of everyday activities in schools, homes, and community settings. An Occupational Therapist looks at a child holistically and considers the child’s strengths and weakness, the environment the child is in and the tasks the child needs to perform to develop the child’s ability to perform optimally. Our overall goal is to help kids participate independently right alongside their peers in any environment, regardless of their level of ability.
In paediatrics, OT’s work with children with a variety of difficulties, including,
- Sensory Processing Disorders
- Developmental coordination disorders
- Autistic spectrum disorders
- Motor skill delays
- Developmental delays
- Neurodevelopmental diagnoses
- Genetic disorders.
These difficulties often result in children struggling with tasks that involve:
- Attention and Concentration
- Social interaction and emotional regulation
- Motor planning (Praxis)
- Assuming and maintaining a good sitting posture
- Drawing, colouring-in and cutting
Occupational therapists enable children to participate in their environments in a significant manner by developing their sensory integration abilities, gross and fine motor skills, visual-perceptual skills and self-care abilities. This enables them to participate to their full potential. Occupational Therapy also helps to develop children’s sense of accomplishment, self-confidence and emotional well-being.
Examples of skills an OT might work on include:
- Self-care tasks (brushing teeth, buttoning clothes and using eating utensils)
- Hand-eye coordination (learning to write on a classroom whiteboard, or copy in a notebook what the teacher writes on the board)
- Fine motor skills (grasping and control a pencil, using scissors)
- Planning and organization (helping a teen plan a trip to his locker to swap books, gym clothes or a musical instrument for the next class period)
- Physical outlets (helping children with behavior issues find better outlets than hitting someone when they’re frustrated or angry)
- Appropriate responses (helping children with sensory processing issues respond to sensations in a more appropriate way)
- The OT might also evaluate a child’s need for special equipment or assistive technology. These can range from a simple pencil grip to voice-activated note-taking software.
- An OT and teacher might work together to help a student attain the goals set in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An OT can also help parents and teachers understand what a child is currently capable of and what goals they may want to set.