PEDIATRIC OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
Many people are surprised to hear that children receive occupational therapy services because the term “occupation” is usually associated with a job or job training. However, “occupation” in occupational therapy has a much broader context. It encompasses all the activities that occupy people’s time and give meaning to their daily lives.
Occupational therapy is designed to address the functional skills of the whole child and assist each child in working to his/her potential. Therapy builds on the strengths of each child while addressing areas that may need to be enhanced. The unique needs of each family are also considered in tailoring a program to fully enhance development.
When a child appears to be capable but is not performing to his/her potential underlying foundational skills may be underdeveloped causing a child to work harder than others to produce the same results. When the frustration becomes too high the child may simply refuse to try. Some of the typical symptoms observed by parents and teachers include the following:
- Tedious, laborious, or messy handwriting
- Difficulty completing homework
- Finding it hard to get thoughts down on paper
- Trouble attending to the task at hand or staying focused
- Reluctance to participate in sports
- Need for more repetition than others to learn a new task
- Trouble staying seated in a chair
- Difficulty with compliance which may or may not result in tantrum
- Hypersensitivity to tags in clothes, seams in socks, hair washing, unexpected touch
- Prefers to touch rather than be touched
- Leans into other people, walls or furniture
- Poor balance and/or coordination
- Difficulty with visual-spatial skills
- Slow processing of auditory information
- Trouble with spelling
- Difficulty understanding subtraction
An evaluation by a qualified occupational therapist can decipher which developmental components need strengthening in order to make a given task easier and more automatic. If foundational skills are underdeveloped working merely to correct symptoms, such as practicing letter formation over and over, may add to a child’s frustration. Foundational skills contribute not only to the ability to do a task in a coordinated manner but also to the smoothness and efficiency of movement. When a child uses cognitive energy for what should be automatic body movement the output will generally become labored, inefficient and slower than expected. Many bright children develop excellent compensatory strategies but will continue to struggle. If a child needs to think about how to position his/her body for a specific task rather than simply adapt one’s body appropriately each task he/she will require additional conscious body awareness and cognitive energy to perform.
Some children whose motor skills appear to be average or even superior may suffer from aspects of poor sensory integration which many contribute to learning and behavioral problems such as inattention or the inability to sit still.
Children who have trouble processing touch, smell, light or sound may benefit from sensory regulation strategies. These may be designed by the expert staff at Sensible Rehab and are usually incorporated in a home program to be used to regulate behavior as it occurs in a home or school setting.
Sensible Rehab uses play, which is a child’s natural occupation, to improve foundation skills and independence so that children can participate in daily life activities at home, school, and in the community. Fun and functional activities are incorporated into the therapy sessions to motivate the child to participate in activities that can promote more appropriate adaptive responses and improve the child’s abilities.