What Is Pediatric Occupational Therapy?
Pediatric Occupational therapy is a profession concerned with helping children of all ages to better perform daily tasks. For children, tasks may include eating, dressing, grooming, writing, playing, or learning. An OT evaluates then designs challenges that build on your child’s unique strengths to facilitate progression through developmental skills.
Attention Span & Arousal Level
If a child isn’t fully engaged in what he is doing, he can’t learn effectively. An OT will help you discover what motivates your child, what makes his body ready to learn, what helps to keep him calm and alert, and what helps him to pay attention and stay focused.
Sensory Processing Skills
A child needs to effectively process the information that is derived from all the external senses (vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste), as well as, all the information derived from inside the body (movement and internal body awareness). All this input must be registered by sensory receptors, processed in the brain, and utilized in an adaptive way for the child to function at his best.
Fine Motor & Gross Motor Skills
Many children have difficulty with fine motor skills such as drawing, using scissors, buttoning, and stringing beads. Their small hand muscles are still maturing and developing strength, coordination and dexterity. Occupational Therapists help children to use their coordination and orientation in space to master climbing and balancing activities.
Activities of Daily Living
Children have a wide variety of activities of daily living that they must master. Most children love becoming independent with these tasks. OT’s help children learn to eat with utensils, drink from a cup, get dressed and undressed, take a shower or bath, use the toilet, and handle grooming and hygiene tasks age- appropriately.
From stacking blocks to doing puzzles to understanding geometry, a child must be able to perceive differences and relationships between objects in the environment. An OT can help a child to form a mental map of how the world works and where he fits in it. These are essential skills to feeling physically and emotionally secure.
Over the years, the time spent learning and practicing handwriting in the classroom has dramatically decreased. Handwriting skills, from the basics of letter formation to taking legible notes in class, can be extremely difficult for some children. This negatively impacts their ability to learn quickly. OT’s use a fun multi-sensory approach to handwriting, including the use of touch (i.e.: writing letters in sand) and sound (using stories to relate the sound to the way it is written).
If your child needs to use assistive devices in school to optimize his academic performance, he has a legal right to use them. Assistive devices can range from low tech (pencil grips and slant boards) to high tech (adapted computers). An OT can help you find the right equipment for your child, teach him how to use it, and help integrate it into the classroom. Many Occupational Therapists work with children with a wide range of physical disabilities, helping them to function at their best using wheel chairs, ambulatory devices, and communication devices that help them participate in social activities.