Does My Child Need OT?
Updated: May 3
What Is OT?
Occupational Therapy is a client-centered health profession that assists people of all ages to complete their daily occupations independently and successfully. When we think of the term ‘occupations’ in our role people usually think “oh so you help people get a job?” but occupations are much more than what a person does for work. Occupations related to all tasks that we complete in the day such as showing, getting dressed, cooking a meal, going to school or work, doing the laundry, social interactions, caring for others, and driving a car.
An injury, illness, or diagnosis can significantly impact a person’s ability to participate in their daily life which can have a devastating impact on that person’s mental health and wellbeing. We understand that the ability to engage in occupations independently and successfully has a lasting positive effect on wellbeing, mental health, and success. This is where an occupational therapist can come in and provide specific assessment and treatment. Whether your goal be to improve your handwriting, be able to attend a café independently, make new friends or knit a blanket, occupational therapists will ensure that your goals are targeted and you are able to engage in occupations that you both need to do and want to do each day.
How is OT Different for Kids?
Just like adults, children engage in occupations throughout their days – it just looks a bit different. Whilst you and I engage in occupations such as cooking, cleaning, driving, and going to work, a child’s day is filled with occupations based on playing, socializing, and learning.
Children rely on adults in their life to support them to engage in activities throughout their day. Therefore, occupational therapy for children is not only working the child but also their siblings, parents, grandparents, and teachers to ensure goals are being met in a holistic way.
An occupational therapist for children will base their session on their specific difficulties which are determined from both parent reports and assessments. Following this, the occupational therapist will engage in sessions with the child and their family. These sessions may just look like lots of fun, games, and play however through play and interaction with other children will learn basic life skills, make sense of the world around them, improve their social skills, fine motor skills and find success.
Why Would a Child Need OT?
A child can be referred by a doctor, teacher, or parent for an assessment if difficulties have been noted. Your child may benefit from occupational therapy for children if they have difficulties with everyday activities at home or school including the following specific activities:
Fine motor skills:
Manipulating or holding toys, pencils, or cutlery
Doing up buttons, zips, or shoelaces
Coloring, drawing, or writing
Gross motor skills:
Appearing clumsy or uncoordinated
Appearing to have difficulty balancing when sitting or walking
Playing on the playground or participating in sport
Distinguishing between left and right and crossing their midline
Visual processing skills:
Spacing and sizing of letters when writing
Recognizing shapes or letters
Finding objects amongst others
Copying from paper or the board
Keeping their place when reading
Heightened or reduced response to sensory input such as noise or smell
Behavioral challenges in the classroom
Difficulty with attention or concentration
Difficulty with transitions or change
Large emotional reactions to sensory input
Limited copying and regulation skills
Play / Social skills:
Difficulty socializing or joining in play with siblings or peers
Need assistance to initiate play or conversation
Limited exploration of toys
Difficulties with sharing or taking turns
Difficulty with understanding and communicating simple emotions
Large or small (unexpected) emotional reactions
Inability to calm or regulate self
What Are the Benefits of OT for Children?
Having an occupational therapist for children is beneficial in targeting delays, difficulties, or barriers to learning and development. Early intervention can ensure that children are able to engage in school and social activities to the best of their ability. This will allow the child to flourish and achieve better outcomes in their occupational performance as they get older.
Occupational therapy for children is often completed through play which is a practical method of developing their attention and socialization whilst also targeting specific skills such as fine or gross motor skills, visual skills, and emotional regulation. The play also assists to support the family as games and activities can easily be repeated at home. If a child finds success early on in social, play and academic tasks their well-being, confidence, and ability to learn will grow positively as they move through life.