What is Occupational Therapy?

img1“Occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and wellbeing through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement” Occupational Therapy Australia

For a child there are a number of occupations that they need to, want to or are expected to do on a daily basis. For example:

Learning and Developmental Skills – Gross and Fine motor skills, visual perception skills, School readiness

Self care including sleeping, eating, toileting and dressing

Playing – imaginative play, turn taking, following rules, Role playing

Socialisation and communication Skills – including friendship development, social

Do I need a referral?

You do not need a referral to access an Occupational Therapist but it is likely that a professional ( teacher, G.P, Paediatrician, Speech Therapist) will have recommended an O.T to you following concerns about your child.

How can Occupational Therapy help my child?

img3Gross motor Skills – these skills involve us using the large muscles in our body and being able to coordinate ourselves. A child who is struggling with Gross Motor skills may avoid being active and moving around, preferring to sit and play, they may have been delayed in developmental milestones like walking, difficulties with balance, jumping, hopping, skipping, running, may appear clumsy and uncoordinated.

Fine motor Skills – these skills involve us using the smaller muscles in our body in particular our hands. A child who has poor fine motor skills may have difficulty manipulating things with their hands, struggle to hold a pencil easily, maybe unable to use scissors, cutlery, tie shoe laces and generally avoid activities that require dexterity and strength of the hands. They may also not demonstrate hand dominance, frequently swapping the roles of their hands.

Visual Perception Skills – these skills involve us understanding and organising the visual information we receive around us. A child who has poor Visual Perception skills may have difficulty learning sight words, difficulty copying off the board, reverse letters, difficulty attending and concentrating on visual tasks.

Sensory Processing – Every day we are exposed to various different stimuli from the environment that impact on our central nervous system. Our body does an amazing thing and is able to interpret and organise this information through our various senses (auditory, visual, olfactory, (smell), gustatory (taste), vestibular(movement), tactile, proprioception and kinaesthesia (body position). This in turn allows us to function in our environment. Most of this process happens instantly and automatically allowing us to focus on the important things at that point in time.

If a child is having difficulty processing and regulating their sensory needs, especially in a classroom it is likely to impact on their learning and behaviour in a classroom.

Self-care Skills -These are the skills that we develop in order for us to become independent beings and care for ourselves for example – Toileting, Feeding Difficulties, dressing. Children can sometimes be delayed or experience difficulties with their toileting habits (Encopresis / Constipation, and Urinary Incontinence). Some children may have very limited diets, eating only certain coloured or textured foods, picky or fussy eaters.img2

Prep Readiness – being Prep ready is the best way to start school and for this we need to master a number of skills such as attention and concentration, fine motor skills and hand writing, recognising letters/ numbers / colours / shapes. Communicating with our peers, playing and socialising, organising ourselves and following instructions, opening drinks bottle, lunch boxes, doing up zips and buttons, going to the toilet independently etc. Taking turns, understanding others emotions and feelings, regulating our own behaviours and feelings.

Anxiety – the difference between a normal worry and anxiety in children is how severe and enduring it is for that child. Being a little anxious is natural and normal in a stressful situation but for some children this can be more than it is for their peers and therefore can be overwhelming. It can then become a problem and may prevent the child from functioning and participating in everyday activities or the child’s fears and concerns are out of proportion or overwhelming.

When should I bring my child to see an O.T?

Research shows that early intervention is the key to skill development so the sooner the better. If you have any concerns about your child’s development there are a number of people you can speak to initially for example – G.P, Child Health Nurse, Paediatrician, Teachers and Day Care staff.

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