Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy (OT) can help children if they struggle with day-to-day activities at home, school, or in the community. Developmental delays affecting children’s cognitive, physical, social, and motor skills can be supported using occupational therapy. 

Occupational therapy can also help children with neurodiverse conditions by focusing on play skills, learning strategies, sensory issues, and self-care.

The goal of occupational therapy is to help these children perform daily activities they may find challenging by addressing sensory, social, behavioral, motor, and environmental issues.

Who needs occupational therapy?

Children with developmental delays often face challenges because they are likely to be behind in achieving developmental milestones. They are usually lacking in a combination of skills, such as:

  • Fine Motor Skills - This includes small movements made with fingers, toes, wrists, lips, and tongue. Children with delays in the development of fine motor skills may struggle to use zippers and scissors, use a pencil or cutlery, have poor handwriting skills, and cannot manipulate toys and puzzles.
  • Gross Motor Skills - This includes movement, strength, and balance development in children. Gross motor skills help a child learn to coordinate their arms, legs, and other body parts to successfully move in the intended direction. Children with delays in gross motor skill development may struggle to identify left and right and coordinate both sides of their body, move up and down stairs, and have poor balance.
  • Visual Processing - Children develop visual processing skills early in life so that the brain can interpret visual information and make sense of what they see. Delays in processing can mean that the child is unable to recognize letters, has poor eye contact and loses their place while reading or copying something from the board, and has trouble identifying specific objects from a group.
  • Cognitive Skills - Also known as learning disabilities, cognitive skills help children concentrate and follow instructions to pick up new information and learn skills in an academic environment. Children with cognitive delays may struggle with learning new material, have poor impulse control, have low energy or hyperactivity, lack focus, and become easily distracted.
  • Oral Motor or Oral Sensory Skills - These skills are used by the child to learn how to control muscle movements in the face and oral areas, including the lips, jaw, tongue, and soft palate. Children with poor oral motor and sensory skills may have trouble using their molars to chew food, become extremely picky eaters, and lose liquid or food from the mouth due to difficulty drinking or eating normally.
  • Sensory Processing - Children with sensory processing problems may have a sensitivity or heightened reactivity to sound, touch, or movement. Sensory processing ability in children is useful in making sense of information received through their senses, like sound and smell.
  • Social and Play Skills - Children may have delayed social skills if they have difficulty adapting to new situations, have isolated areas of interest, and have challenges interacting socially with family or peers. Social interactions and play time encourage children to gain self-confidence and learn problem-solving skills.

Such gaps in learning and developmental skills can be supported by an occupational therapy program that aims to overcome obstacles that impact a child’s emotional, social, and physical needs.

How do occupational therapists help?

Occupational therapy is provided by licensed occupational therapists (OTs) who have a master’s degree and are certified by The National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). 

OTs work with children and families in one-on-one therapy sessions to conduct individualized evaluations and create a collaborative plan to help the child meet their planned goals. Occupational therapy sessions are usually between 30 to 60 minutes long. The number of sessions per week depends on the individual needs of each child.

OTs are experienced in analyzing and designing activities that help children grow their fine motor skills, cognition, language skills, and other functional skills. The child’s OT can also help practice and master basic life skills such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and self-feeding. The child works with their therapist to learn positive behaviors and practice managing frustration and anger.

Can occupational therapy help manage neurodiverse conditions?

Children with neurodiverse conditions, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), social-emotional-behavioral delays, and executive dysfunction, may struggle to filter sensory information. Children in these situations may also find daily tasks overwhelming to process, and are often seen to have additional difficulties with posture, coordination, and motor planning.

Children who experience sensory overload may often react in ways that can seem like distress and withdrawal. 

With occupational therapy, children with neurodiverse conditions are given sensory guidance and support so they have opportunities to self-regulate emotions and participate in social interactions; thus removing barriers to learning.

Use Occupational Therapy to Help Your Child with Neurodiversity

Occupational therapy (OT) can be a great tool to help children grow and enhance their functional skills. If your child is part of the Home and Community Based Service (HCBS) program with Award Behavioral Health, OT is one of our offered therapy services you can integrate with your child’s care plan. 

To learn more about using occupational therapy to help your child at Award Behavioral Health, call us at (800) 249-9569 or contact us online.

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