What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy (OT) is a therapeutic treatment designed to help people who struggle with everyday activities. Specifically for kids, Occupational Therapy can help children with cognitive, sensory integration or developmental delays achieve independence in their daily routines. These daily activities include writing, typing, tying shoelaces and zipping a jacket.
A child’s early years include many novel experiences and new stimulations which are critical for his physical, cognitive & social development. If a child’s restricted development or learning disabilities are not resolved, he will not have a strong foundation for his future learning career.
Signs Your Child Needs Occupational Therapy
- Poor sensory integration skills – Thinks that sounds are too loud or soft objects feel hard
- Poor emotional regulation – Often angry, anxious or depressed
- Poor visual perception skills – Trouble with hand-eye coordination, skip words when reading or poor spatial awareness
- Unable to express himself through words
- Has trouble imitating sounds
- Unusual tone of voice
- Unable to understand simple verbal instructions
- Poor pronunciation or articulation
- Poor oral motor skills (swallowing & chewing)
3. Poor Fine Motor Skills
- Unable to hold utensils
- Unable to manipulate with toys & puzzles
- Unable to use a pair of scissors
- Unable to tie shoelaces
- Poor handwriting
4. Poor Gross Motor Skills
- Unable to walk without support
- Poor hand-eye coordination
- Poor balance
- Does not understand concept of left & right
- Poor memory
- Poor time management
- Unable to keep up in conversations
How can Occupational Therapy Help my Child?
Occupational Therapists often help a child build independence by developing self-care skills. Self-care skills, often known as Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) include everyday tasks such as eating, drinking, dressing, grooming, toileting and personal hygiene. While adults may support a child in these activities, it is expected for a child to develop independence as they grow older.
An Occupational Therapist will first conduct an initial evaluation to determine if there are any external barriers causing his performance deficit. After which, he may focus on the following performance areas to improve self-care performance.
This is a self-regulating skill which helps us plan, organise and control our thoughts and actions. Children with poor executive functioning often become overwhelmed by simple chores such as dressing up. An Occupational Therapist may use visual timers or checklists to improve organisational skills, task initiation and time management.
To improve a child’s sensory integration, an Occupational Therapist may design play activities or Sensory Diets to change the way the brain reacts to sounds, sight, touch, smell and taste. The key here is to be consistent and repetitive so that the child’s brain becomes more self-aware of his sensory inputs.
An Occupational Therapist may use coordination exercises to strengthen a child’s core muscles, improving stability, balance, dexterity and body awareness. Interactive toys such as playdough, puzzles and Lego can also build stronger grip strength and hand-eye coordination. Additionally, an Occupational Therapist may practice daily activities with your child, such as brushing his teeth, tying his shoelaces and using cutlery.
Additionally, Occupational Therapists may suggest adaptive equipment to increase a child’s independence in self-care skills. For example, if a child has difficulty putting on his shoes, an Occupational Therapist may recommend using a shoehorn.
How Can You Find an Occupational Therapist?
Occupational Therapists work in many different settings. You can find them at schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centres and mental health facilities. If you think your child requires Occupational Therapy, you may:
- Ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist.
- Speak to your child’s school counsellor.
- Consult a paediatric clinic.
When should I introduce utensils to my child?
Children above the age of 9 months should start to explore the use of utensils during mealtime.
Milestones for getting dressed
1 – 2 Years old – Push limbs through shirt and pants, remove shoes
3 – 4 Years old – Pulls down pants, puts on shirt with some assistance
5 – 6 Years old – Dresses independently, zips / unzip jacket, ties shoelaces
Does my child need to go through an assessment before the therapy?
Yes. At SBDC, our Therapists will first conduct an assessment test to identify a child’s weaknesses. We will then design a series of personalised training activities to target and improve those weaknesses.
How can I prepare my child for his first therapy session?
- Dress your child in loose, comfortable clothes as there will be physical play activities.
- Prepare a thorough summary of your child’s history. This will help our therapists better evaluate your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Observe and take notes of your Therapists suggestions. There may be home activities you can conduct to improve your child’s development.