Children with additional or special needs encounter many challenges in everyday life, be it at home or at school. Not only can this affect their general development, but it can also have a negative impact on their self-esteem and prevent them from becoming independent individuals. Fortunately, a great number of different approaches have been developed with the aim of helping them overcome everyday obstacles and realise their full potential. Occupational therapy for children has become quite an industry. Depending on a child’s personal characteristics and specific needs, they can engage in a variety of therapies to address those needs.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy (OT) is a therapeutic approach that implements different activities to help children complete everyday tasks known as “occupations”. This type of therapy is designed to help children anywhere between 0 and 19 years of age, who are experiencing difficulties performing everyday activities, such as self-care, socialising, play, school tasks, etc. Occupational therapy combines evidence-based strategies and creative activities with the aim of helping children with special needs acquire and improve basic skills, learn, become more independent and maximise their potential.
Furthermore, OT practitioners deal with psychological, environmental and social factors that may affect a child’s well-being and functioning.
After being referred to an OT service by a paediatrician, education staff or parents themselves, a child undergoes an OT assessment that investigates his/her sensory processing, motor skills, self-care skills, handwriting, attention, visual perception and other areas as different children require different, personalised approaches. Afterwards, goals and strategies are established based on a child’s individual characteristics and needs. These strategies are implemented through a series of sessions assisted by a professional OT therapist.
Who can benefit from Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy can help children who have experienced a birth injury or have a birth defect; it can also benefit children with learning disabilities, sensory processing disorders, autism, mental health problems, behavioural issues, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other chronic illnesses. Furthermore, occupational therapy may also help children who’ve experienced a traumatic spinal or brain injury, severe burns, traumatic amputations, severe hand injuries and post-surgical problems or who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Parents can also benefit from their children’s occupational therapies. Namely, OT practitioners may provide them with practical advice on how to tackle everyday activities with their child, such as bathing and dressing. They can also suggest different activities and strategies that they can use to aid their children’s development.
What do Occupational Therapy activities for children look like?
As previously mentioned, occupational therapy for children employs both scientifically-backed strategies and creative activities. OT activities address child’s strength, coordination, sensory reactions, etc. Approaches and activities are adjusted to the child’s specific needs. For example, if a child has difficulties with handwriting, they may be asked to form letters with their fingers or different materials. Children who have problems with their motor skills may be given a sheet of white a4 paper and asked to create different patterns or make specific paper crafts. On the other hand, a child who’s struggling with focus may need to perform different full-body activities that can help them exert energy so that they can sit peacefully at a table and focus in class.
What are the benefits of Occupational Therapy for children?
What Photo by Mike Fox (unsplash)Occupational therapy can help children with special needs overcome a variety of obstacles and become more independent individuals who can take care of themselves. OT offers numerous benefits to help a child develop and improve a range of skills, such as gross and fine motor skills, organisational skills, self-care skills, such as dressing or feeding, social skills, etc, resulting in increased self-confidence. Improvements in a child’s general development can also support their integration and inclusion in different environments. A child may be better able to tackle school tasks and focus in class, which can lead to improved school performance and success. Consequently, all of this can have a positive effect on a child’s self-esteem, which is of the utmost importance for their happiness and well-being.
What are Occupational Therapy practitioners?
Occupational Therapy practitioners are individuals who have completed a specialised OT program and earned a master’s degree. Occupational therapists can work in different institutions and settings, including special needs clinics, Occupational Therapy for children clubs camps and schools. When it comes to school-based OT, certified occupational therapy assistants develop programs and approaches to support a child’s participation in class and that can help them tackle different school-related areas, such as handwriting, problem solving and others. OT clinics, on the other hand, deal not only with school-related issues, but also with a wide range of other skills and abilities.
Occupational therapists may also visit children at home and provide parents with an opportunity to participate.
By combining both scientifically-backed approaches and creative techniques, specific occupational therapy for children can help those with special needs become more independent individuals who can take care of themselves and realise their potential.