Pediatric Disorders: How Occupational Therapy Can Help

Occupational therapy is the process by which people of all ages improve their ability to participate in everyday activities (occupations). For the pediatric population, this type of therapy is critical to help children participate fully in school activities and social play.

Fine and gross motor movements are critical to success in school and a child’s overall life. Writing with a pencil, cutting with scissors, getting dressed in the morning, eating using a fork or spoon, and grasping on to the monkey bars are all activities that may be difficult for children with occupational challenges.

Below are some of the more common disorders that occupational therapists are trained to work with, and some of the ways they can help children with these diagnoses:

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects about 3% of school-age children and can have a significant impact on their ability to pay attention, control their activity, and restrain impulsive behavior. An occupational therapist can evaluate and recommend programs that address the physical, behavioral, and emotional effects of ADHD. Sensory integration techniques, feedback, activity recommendations, and processes for home and school may all be used and recommended by occupational therapists.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):

A child with autism may face many challenges physically, socially, and academically, depending on the severity of their disorder. Occupational therapists can help children with ASD with self-care routines, like brushing teeth and getting dressed, while incorporating additional support. Occupational therapists are also skilled at supporting appropriate sensory stimulation in therapy to improve a child’s ability to interact with others and be successful in their surroundings.

Cerebral Palsy:
Occupational therapists are highly trained to work with children with a variety of physical impairments and limitations. Children with CP may work with a therapist to find optimal positioning, improve posture for feeding, and improve the ability to communicate via devices like the iPad.

Other physical/sensory needs:
Occupational therapists also work with children on general fine motor, movement, and sensory challenges. A child who has trouble grasping a pencil for writing, for instance, may benefit from occupational therapy to improve their handwriting ability. Even some “clumsy” children may actually be affected by a coordination deficit that can be improved by occupational therapy.

If you think your child may have deficits in physical coordination, fine motor movements, or sensory skills, an evaluation by a licensed occupational therapist may be beneficial.