Have you ever wondered, “What is occupational therapy?” If so, today is your lucky day, because I’m going to tell you!
Occupational therapy (OT) helps individuals with injuries or disabilities increase their independence and participate in daily routines (or occupations) through participation in therapeutic activities. A child has several “occupations”, including school, play, and taking care of daily living skills such as bathing, dressing, feeding, etc. A little one who has a disability or is recovering from an illness or injury will want to return to those occupations as soon as possible, so that’s when OT usually comes into the picture. Occupational therapists work with children diagnosed with a variety of conditions, such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, learning disabilities, developmental delays, autism, and cancer. In therapy, we work on a variety of skills, depending on the area of need. Here is a list of problems that a pediatric occupational therapist might address.
- Poor fine-motor skills (grasping, cutting, shoe-tying, utensil use)
- Poor playground skills (fear of climbing, low muscle tone, core weakness)
- Visual perceptual skills
- Poor handwriting skills
- Problems with eye-hand coordination
- Poor sensory processing
- Dependence with daily living Skills (bathing, tooth-brushing, dressing, self-feeding)
- Orthopedic Injuries
Obviously this list of diagnoses and problems is not all-inclusive, but hopefully you have the idea! So now you can tell everyone what a pediatric OT does. Being an occupational therapist is the best job in the world!
Photo by kdshutterman @ freedigitalphotos.net
Children with special needs often struggle with language, motor, and sensory processing skills. Difficulties in one or more of these areas may impact how a child interacts with the world. For example, a child with a language delay may have fewer social interactions on a daily basis. Because children learn by engaging with the world around them, it is critical that all children have unlimited opportunities for learning. Here are several strategies for helping a child with special needs learn through engagement.
-Never underestimate the power of imitation. Imitate your child and encourage her to imitate you. Guide her through the motions if she needs a bit of help. Even if she’s being guided, she will feel the movement and learn from it.
–Exaggerate, exaggerate, exaggerate! Exaggerate your expressions, your voice and every move that you make in order to get and keep your child’s attention. During play, always position yourself in her line of vision. Your child learns through observation, so the more he watches you, the more he learns.
–Reinforcement may be necessary. A child with special needs may not be naturally excited by play and interaction, so keep the motivation high through positive reinforcement. Be sure to use reinforcers that are motivating and meaningful to your chld.
-Keep it simple. Play doesn’t have to be complicated. Break activities down into simple, basic steps in order to increase your child’s opportunities to successfully complete a task. Praise your child for every small accomplishment.
-Make it fun. Try not to “push” your child. Play should be natural and fun and if your child senses that you aren’t having a good time, it’s likely he won’t have as much fun. Laugh as much as possible and have a good time!
Daydreaming plays an important role in the creative process, and research reveals that creativity has been on the decline in recent decades. To learn how to promote creativity in children (and adults), watch this TEDx talk by clicking on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omGbKQIzoWY