Top 10 Ways Occupational Therapy Can Help Children with Self-Care

As children develop, self-care becomes an important aspect of daily routines, from brushing your teeth to eating when hungry. Self-care encompasses many domains, including emotional, personal, physical, psychological, social, and spiritual care. Every child learns these skills at a different pace, but self-care can be particularly difficult for children who experience developmental delays. If a child is having these delays in self-care skills, occupational therapy may be a successful strategy for building these skills.

What is pediatric occupational therapy?
Pediatric occupational therapy works with child to build skills needed to be successful in the activities (or “occupations”) of daily life, including home, school, and social settings. An occupational therapist can work with children in many settings, such as in-home therapy, a clinic or private practice, a hospital, or a school. Parents may also become involved in occupational therapy by incorporating therapeutic strategies into routines at home.

Self-care skills
Self-care skills can be difficult for children with developmental delays, as they require communication, motor planning, sensory processing, and sequencing skills to complete. Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental delays may require additional support for developing these skills. Many children might find this support in occupational therapy (or “OT”). As children develop, self-care skills are also necessary for establishing a sense of independence.

Self-care and occupational therapy
There are many different self-care skills that can be targeted in occupational therapy.

  • Washing and drying hands
  • Drinking from a glass (with or without a straw)
  • Feeding themselves
  • Making the choice of which clothes to wear
  • Dressing independently
  • Brushing teeth
  • Put on shoes and tie laces
  • Comb or brush hair in the morning before school
  • Using a tissue to blow their nose
  • Bathing/washing hair

How can occupational therapy help build self-care skills?
Occupational therapy can help to improve the necessary communication, motor planning, sensory processing, and sequencing skills to perform these daily self-care skills. For example, some children may not have the muscle tone required to complete some self-care skills. In this case, an occupational therapist would work with the parents of the child to develop a treatment plan that incorporates exercises to develop their motor skills and muscle tone.

An occupational therapist can also practice all of these skills with the child in an in-home therapy setting. By demonstrating these skills in their actual environment, children may have an easier time performing these tasks in their daily lives. The parents may also become involved in the therapy and can help their child to create daily routines or schedules. One helpful method is creating a visual schedule, which provides a concrete representation of the required tasks.

Do you think your child could benefit from working on self-care in occupational therapy?
Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services for children, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

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