Occupational therapy is about helping children complete daily activities, foster independence and participate fully in their natural settings. If your child has difficulty playing, socialising or completing self-care tasks, they may benefit from seeing an occupational therapist.
What is occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy can help children understand and work with their bodies so they can perform the basic life skills and tasks required at home and school. Building and strengthening foundation skills such as handwriting, cutting, tying shoelaces, self-care (dressing, feeding and toileting), concentration, attention, coordination, balance and movement allows your child to get the most they can from their learning environment.
What are the goals of occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy is about enhancing your child’s skills so they can fully participate in everyday life. Every child is different, and the goals will depend on their individual needs. Some aims of occupational therapy involve working on:
- Fine motor– synchronisation of hands and fingers with the eyes for activities such as handwriting, colouring, cutting, holding cutlery and tying shoelaces
- Gross motor– using large muscles and movement of the whole body that are needed for playground games, sports, balance, coordination, posture, strength and endurance
- Sensory processing– involves the way children receive, interpret and behave to senses. Children can often be under or over-reactive to emotions, sound, movement, vision, taste, touch, smell and pressure
- Visual perception and visual motor integration– processing visual information and matching that with the appropriate motor actions, e.g. completing a puzzle or copying handwriting
- Self-awareness and body awareness – understanding where our bodies are in space and how our bodies move e.g. how close to stand next to someone or how far to reach for an object
Would my child benefit from a seeing an occupational therapist?
There are a number of signs which could indicate your child may benefit from occupational therapy. These include:
- Messy or poorly constructed handwriting
- Difficulties colouring, cutting, holding cutlery
- Becoming easily overwhelmed in situations
- Behavioural difficulties or concerns in environments
- Struggles copying from a blackboard or completing puzzles
- Problems with dressing, toileting, brushing teeth or other daily tasks
- Struggles with attention, concentration or following directions
- Difficulty with sitting at a desk or table, fidgeting or excessive movement
- Clumsiness, struggles to participate in playground games or sports
- Withdrawn from social situations and making friends
- Reduced confidence, anxiety or avoidance of activities