April is Occupational Therapy Month, and we are excited to celebrate this awesome field and the wonderful occupational therapists who promote OT on a daily basis! I’ll start by answering this frequently asked question:
What is occupational therapy?
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), “Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations).” A child’s life is made up of many “occupations,” or daily activities, including playing, learning, and socializing. Occupational therapy practitioners work with children and their families to help them succeed in these activities throughout the day. Here are just a few areas of development that OT can help address:
Attention span and arousal level
If a child isn’t interested, fidgets constantly, or simply doesn’t look at what she is doing, she can’t learn effectively. An OT can help you discover what motivates your child and makes his body ready to learn, pay attention and stay focused.
Sensory processing skillsEvery day, our bodies are exposed to sensory input from the external environment (seeing, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) as well as from inside our bodies (movement, balance, and internal body awareness). All this input must be registered by sensory receptors, processed in the brain, and acted upon in an adaptive way in order for a child to function at her best.
Fine motor and gross motor skills
OTs can help children with fine motor skills such as drawing, using scissors, buttoning, and stringing beads by improving the strength, coordination, and dexterity needed to complete these tasks. OTs also work on gross motor skills, such as throwing and catching a ball, coordinating both sides of your body (bilateral integration), and planning and carrying out movements smoothly and efficiently.
Activities of daily living (ADLs)
Children have many ADL tasks to master, and most children love becoming independent with these tasks. OTs help children learn to eat with utensils, get dressed and undressed, use the toilet, and handle grooming and hygiene tasks appropriately for their age.
From stacking blocks to doing puzzles, a child must be able to perceive differences and relationships between objects in his environment. An OT can help a child to perceive these relationships in order to better understand the world around him.
Handwriting skills, from writing your name to taking class notes legibly, can be extremely difficult for some children to learn. OTs use a multisensory approach to handwriting, and look at how the child’s fine motor, visual-perceptual, and other skills impact handwriting performance.
Read more about what the role of occupational therapy is when working with children and youth by click here.