5 Ways Occupational Therapy Can Support Your Child
Hey there! My name is Kali Campbell and I’m an occupational therapist in Austin, Texas. I am deeply passionate about how occupational therapy can positively impact children and their families. In this post, I’ll share five common reasons parents seek out occupational therapy for their child and how it can provide support.
First of all, what is occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy is all about an individual’s ability to participate in the activities they want to do and need to do in their daily lives.
Many of us do not think about the amount of skills we are using throughout our daily routines. We rely on hand-eye coordination and fine motor control to bring a spoon to our mouth. We rely on proprioception, the sense that tells us where our bodies are in space, to put our clothes on properly. We rely on our ability to tune out irrelevant sensory input, such as how our socks feel on our feet, to allow us to focus on the document we are reading. We rely on executive functioning skills to buy groceries for the week and put together Ikea furniture. As you can imagine, if just one of these skills is not functioning properly, it can make our whole day a lot more difficult. Occupational therapy can identify where an individual’s challenges are stemming from and enhance functioning through targeted treatment interventions.
Reasons to seek out occupational therapy for your child
1. Identifying Developmental Challenges
Oftentimes, parents will seek out occupational therapy treatment because something just seems off. With so many underlying skills that contribute to various tasks, it can be hard to put your finger on which ones are causing your child’s difficulties. With every child having their own unique strengths and challenges, it can be difficult to determine what is developmentally appropriate or a cause for concern. Occupational therapists can evaluate your child to determine if they are on track developmentally or if they could use extra support. If your child is struggling to acquire certain skills, it is best to address this sooner rather than later. If one area of development is off, it is likely to affect other areas of development as time goes on and the gap between your child and their peers may increase. This commonly leads to self-esteem and socialization struggles. Occupational therapy can foster your child’s development through individualized playful activities so they can experience success and have fun along the way!
2. Treating Sensory Processing Challenges
Sensory processing has become a buzzword in recent years, which is exciting because it affects everything we do throughout the day. However, it is much more complex than fidget tools and cozy corners. Some kids can be sensitive to tags on clothing while others may not notice if their face is covered in ice cream. Some might seem oblivious to danger while scaling playground towers while others may be too nervous to get on the swings. Some are unable to sit long enough to finish a meal while others have a hard time getting up off the couch. Occupational therapists can evaluate your child to determine what their individual sensory needs are and implement a treatment plan to help their sensory system process input in a more organized manner, enabling them to participate in life with more safety and comfort!
3. Promoting independence in daily living skills
The most basic daily tasks (getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating meals, bathing, etc.) can take many children forever to complete. When a child has motor delays, sensory processing challenges, or trouble with emotional regulation, these tasks can go from challenging to impossible. Occupational therapists are trained to break down tasks into manageable parts to help children build the foundational skills required to complete the task at large. As an occupational therapist who understands the power of play, I aim to make building these foundational skills as fun as possible and I know there are many other OT’s out there who do the same!
4. Improving emotional regulation skills
Who doesn’t want to improve their emotional regulation skills, am I right? Occupational therapy can help children learn to identify and express their emotions effectively. It can build up their toolbox with strategies to manage the more challenging feelings life throws at them. Addressing these skills leads to more confidence, resilience, and well-being (in addition to fewer behavioral challenges). Occupational therapists can equip you with strategies to implement in your daily life to reinforce the skills your child is learning during treatment sessions.
5. Supporting academic success
A variety of components facilitate a child’s ability to function in the school setting. Children require adequate sensory processing to focus on the teacher instead of the posters on the wall and to write without pushing so hard they break the pencil. They require self-regulation skills to manage disappointment when kids at recess don’t want to play what they want to play and to manage anxiety when they don’t know the answer to a question on a test. They require core and shoulder strength to hold their bodies up in their chair and control their hand while writing. And, of course, they need adequate attention, organization, and executive functioning skills to succeed in the classroom. Occupational therapy can help your child build upon all of these skills and others that they need to thrive at school.
As you can see, there are many ways occupational therapy can support children! Occupational therapy can be a great place to start if you feel that something is off with your child developmentally, as occupational therapists are trained to look at the child as a whole to determine what underlying systems and skills need more attention. Seeking support early empowers your child to thrive in the long term. If you believe your child could benefit from occupational therapy, don’t hesitate to reach out and explore the wonderful possibilities it can unlock for your child’s growth and well-being!