Occupational therapy is a type of therapy that is often grouped with physical therapy and speech therapy in the rehabilitative process. But what is occupational therapy (OT), and why is it important?
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy is the process by which people of all ages improve their ability to participate in everyday activities (occupations). For adults, this includes daily routines and physical work requirements. For children, this type of therapy is critical to help them participate fully in school activities and social play.
A child’s full time job is playing, developing, and learning self care skills. As an adult, you may put in about forty hours a week into your job. A child puts one hundred percent of their time, energy and brainpower into absorbing the information and experiences that surround them. This process can become incredibly overwhelming! Occasionally, a child might require additional motor development assistance, or help coping with environmental or behavioral challenges.
Fine and gross motor movements are critical to success in school and a child’s overall life. Fine motor skills use small muscles, like for handwriting, while gross motor skills use big muscles, like jumping! Everyone uses these motor skills and the five scenes to develop understanding and complete tasks. 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 seem natural, but may be difficult for children with occupational challenges.
Occupational therapists who work with children are extremely knowledgeable in the areas of child development, and can assist children who are not meeting these milestones using individualized therapy. They also have experience working with children who have disabilities that affect their ability to participate in life activities. Occupational therapists frequently work with a wide variety of disabilities, whether it be a physical limitation, an attention difficulty such as ADHD, or a sensory need.
Sensory challenges are also an area of expertise for occupational therapist. Some children have difficulty processing the many stimuli to which they are exposed at any given time (sounds, sights, touch, smells, etc.). These difficulties may affect their school performance, their ability to make friends, and their ability to focus on a task. Occupational therapists are skilled at adjusting sensory stimuli appropriately in order to provide the optimal environment for a child with sensory needs.
In order to deeply understand these complex relationships between brain and body, all occupational therapists complete higher education. To become a certified occupational therapist requires completion of a Master’s degree, as well as clinical experience with proper training and observation. These experiences and advanced education creates a medical understanding of how bodies work, but also a caring and understanding person for clients needs. All therapists take their education and training seriously, and are dedicated to providing your child with appropriate care.
Overall, pediatric occupational therapists help all varieties of children succeed in their daily life. Whether at home, in a classroom, or in social settings, an occupational therapist helps your child reach their full potential.