Occupational Therapy promotes skills for the job of living. Occupational therapists use adaptive work and play activities to increase independent function, enhance development, prevent disability and help people achieve independence in all areas of their lives. Some people might think that occupational therapy is only for adults since children do not have occupations. But playing and learning are the main jobs of children and young adults. An occupational therapist can evaluate a child’s skills for play activities, school performance and activities of daily living and compare them to what is developmentally appropriate for a particular age group.
At The Hospital at The Children’s Institute, our occupational therapists provide children and young adults with fun, positive and meaningful activities to help improve cognitive, motor, and physical function. We encourage family members to be active participants in the development of goals and therapeutic activities in order to address each child’s individual needs.
Occupational therapy may include:
- Fine motor activities, to address dexterity challenges and fun ways to increase grip strength
- Turn-taking and social activities that require organization of materials and oneself
- Self-care activities such as dressing, eating/feeding or bathing
- Visual tasks, including hand-eye coordination and the use of visual perceptual skills such as finding one item among many (like Where’s Waldo?), identifying similar shapes facing different directions (p and b for example) or recalling things after seeing them (a foundation for reading)
- Sensory – motor activities that include skilled motor responses to all senses: sound, touch, movement and how hard we need to push or squeeze an item to make it work (stack blocks or apply a lid) and may include swings, music or even massage and brushing
- Activities found in the daily life of a school student, such as problem solving, hand writing and following directions
- Adaptive or assistive equipment for wheelchairs, bathing, dressing or hygiene, and use computers or speech equipment
- Splints or casts that are needed for support of an arm or hand
- Special services or types of treatment such as electrical stimulation, hot packs, paraffin, hydrotherapy, fludiotherapy, therapeutic listening or kinesiotaping
When to Refer
Your child should be referred for occupational therapy services if he or she exhibits delays in or awkward approaches to any of the following:
- fine motor and dexterity skills
- hand-eye coordination
- sensory processing skills that get in the way of the child’s ability to complete everyday activities, such as:
- self-care (feeding, dressing, hygiene)
- community participation (school, church, playgrounds)
- Orthopedic or neurological conditions that require skill-building, special equipment or adaptations for the child to succeed in daily life
- More than a six-month delay in achieving age-appropriate developmental milestones in self-feeding, dressing or play.