What is Children Occupational Therapy? Why Your Child Needs It

What is Children Occupational Therapy? Why Your Child Needs It
Written By: Clinical Psychologist
RIMS - M.Phil
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 30-03-2023

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You observe that your child is not developing in the same manner as children of his age. You see that your brother’s daughter who was born just one month apart from your son has started to go to school and mix with other children there but your son shows tantrums to go to school and also if he goes still he is unable to co-operate with his peers there. Along with this you also observe that he is not talking like your niece and not performing other activities of daily living as well. You start to get worried and go to consult a doctor. The doctor does all the required assessments and then diagnoses your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Now, the doctor tells you that your child is lacking in learning adaptive behavior and so he is not able to perform the activities because he has a neurodevelopmental disorder that makes him different from other children. He suggests you teach him all the activities and so here comes the role of Occupational Therapy in the picture.

What is Occupational Therapy For Kids?

Occupational therapy is a form of therapy included in the health care profession where individuals are helped to overcome or to manage their physical, adaptive, cognitive, and sensory disabilities. It makes use of certain interventions and assessments to develop the therapeutic environment for the child or the adult.

Occupational therapy is designed in a way where activities are created by keeping in mind their use in real-life settings. It doesn’t work like the other therapies where the therapist and client sit face-to-face and discuss real-life situations. Instead, it takes place in a room that is designed with some equipment that is of use for the therapy, and children or individuals are made to perform the activity by making use of this equipment.

For kids, the therapy follows the same process as it does with every other age group. There is a trained occupational therapist who uses various assessments and interventions to work on physical, adaptive, cognitive, communication, and sensory difficulties.

The therapy is done in a separate set-up which includes swings, balance boards, trampolines, cushions, sensory integration kits, cognitive activity boards, puzzles, etc.

How does occupational therapy work with children?

Occupational Therapists are trained to deal with a range of difficulties in the child. The therapists evaluate the child by using assessments to understand what are the difficulties and then plan interventions according to the need of the child. The needs include-

  • Sensory integration in children with Autism may face difficulty with a loud sound, bright lights, etc.
  • OT works with hyperactivity, inattention, concentration issues among children.
  • Physical activities like poor balance, difficulty maintaining posture, walking difficulty, and more.
  • It helps with poor eye-hand coordination and fine and gross motor skills.
  • It also helps with reading and writing difficulties.
  • OT also helps with toilet training, self-feeding, self-hygiene, and self- dressing up.
  • In children with developmental delays, it works by teaching them how to function in social set-ups, how to behave appropriately, and work on their confidence and self-esteem building.

Which kids need occupational therapy?

Children who:

  • Show developmental delays like delay in physical development (walking, balancing oneself, etc.) cognitive functioning, communication skills, and adaptive functioning.
  • Are diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders like Intellectual Disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit, and Hyperactivity Disorder;
  • Have motor disorders like Cerebral Palsy
  • Shows learning Disabilities like difficulty with reading and writing, etc.
  • Those who have recently met with some injury and are not able to get back to independent working also need occupational therapy.
  • Faces difficulty with sensory integration. This mostly happens with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

How do children benefit from Occupational Therapy?

Pediatric occupational therapy works with children in the age group of 0-10/11 years. Children can benefit from occupational as it helps them learn to function independently on tasks of daily living like eating, toilet needs, bathing, etc. It also works to teach them how to behave appropriately to the demand of the situation. It also teaches them social skills and occupational skills. When children are worked on these parts it helps them to boost their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Occupational Therapy has proved to work wonders with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in OT there is a set-up where the children are taught all the activities in a disciplined way. They are worked upon on responding to name-calling, and maintaining eye contact, with group activities they learn social and behavioral skills, and with physical activities, they learn eye-hand coordination and gross and fine motor functioning. Therefore, when they go in real-life settings they find it easier to co-operate and co-ordinate with others.

Role of Occupational Therapists in Pediatric care

Pediatric care is medical care for children. Pediatric care focuses on growth and development, nutrition, prevention of illnesses, and treatment of illnesses in children. The purpose is to improve the quality of life for both the kid and the family. 

Occupational therapists play an important role as they work on managing and improving developmental difficulties. If a child has difficulties in proper functioning he/she has to be worked on during the developmental period or else it becomes very difficult to deal with such difficulties in the later periods of life.

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