When a child grows up, he undergoes a lot of physical, mental, a sociological development that helps him navigate the real world and interact with others. The initial years are the crux of brain development since a lot of growth occurs during this time. Certain kids, unfortunately, do not reach these development stages as needed, and their maturity does not match the level of other kids of their same age. In such a dilemma, occupational therapy comes to their rescue.
What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?
Occupational therapy is a set of exercises, techniques and activities that assist children in developing the skills and forms required to start living their lives independently. Many kids need a lot of help with basic daily routines such as brushing teeth, wearing clothes, or schooling related activities such as noting down what’s written on the blackboard or making use of simple tools. Their motor responses and sensory nodes do not respond and process at the level as that of other children. This causes them to be slower, to make more mistakes than others, and can affect the child quite a lot.
With occupational therapy, your child will begin to carry out most of the activities by himself gradually over time.
When Does a Child Need OT?
You might wonder ‘Does my child need occupational therapy to live his life?’. Some kids might bloom later than others and they may not require any therapy as such. However, there are certain cases when occupational therapy might be considered for a child:
- Suffering from birth-related defects
- Problems processing sensory receptions
- Have faced injuries immediately after birth
- Failing to learn new things easily
- Having arthritis, bone-related disorders or so
- Developmental disorders such as autism or behavioural issues
- Has suffered extreme level burns
- Kids suffering from cancer, palsy, or other debilitating illnesses
Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Kids
Introducing your kid to occupational therapy can have the following benefits.
1. Handling the Daily Routine of Life
Certain kids face issues in carrying out activities that are essential in the daily routine of life. These include brushing their teeth, going to the toilet, holding a pencil to write or draw something, wearing their own clothes, buttoning a shirt, and so on. These are activities kids should start doing by themselves independently. Occupational therapy helps them achieve that independence.
2. Resolving Issues of Sensory Perception and Processes
When children have issues with their sensory organs, they encounter trouble in seeing things correctly, finding sounds to be too quiet or too loud, not understanding touch, failing to recognize smells, having different taste perceptions and so on. These could result in an extreme behaviour at school or lethargy and apathy too. With occupational therapy, these kids can be taught to bring back control over their senses and assess them accordingly.
3. Bringing Better Movement Possibilities to Kids with Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a condition that pretty much restricts any physical movement, depending on the severity of the condition. Most kids also suffer from dystrophy in the muscles, rendering them unable to move and resorting to using a wheelchair. Since their lives revolve around it, occupational therapy helps them cultivate their activities by teaching them to use it properly, and make the necessary adjustments to turn it into an integral part of their life.
4. Helping Kids with Autism Communicate and Interact Better
Although kids suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) might be clubbed with autism, the problems both suffer are different. Autistic kids do show tendencies similar to that of kids with SPD but not vice versa. These kids have trouble conversing with people, do not engage in play, and stay aloof from any activities. Each child’s behaviour needs to be handled separately and occupational therapy for children with autism helps out a lot in that regard. By addressing only those problems that are necessary, it does not become a generalized solution and helps kids overcome their issues sooner.
5. Stabilising the Lives of Kids with Motor Skill Issues
Some children have issues with the muscles in their limbs as well as fingers or so. This can cause trouble while learning to walk, or ride a bicycle and so on. Occupational therapy works on this problems individually and either helps them adapt to it, or even remove the condition altogether.
6. Relearning What They Know Already for Kids with Injuries and Burns
These kids might have led normal lives right from the beginning until an incident rendered them unable to do so. For such kids, the problem is forgetting what they already knew and doing it differently. Occupational therapy helps them get perspective in understanding different ways of carrying out previously known activities and get good at it.
Difference Between Occupational & Physical Therapy
Occupational therapy for children with special needs and physical therapy for children with disabilities might seem like the same thing. However, physical therapy primarily focuses on reducing pain, improving physical movement and strength, and deals with limbs and joints. Occupational therapy includes that along with a focus on cognitive and perception skills, behavioural disorders, and relearning abilities.
Occupational Therapy Activities for Children
Here are some occupational therapy activities that are suggested for kids.
1. Activities that Improve Quality of Sleep
Certain children face trouble sleeping properly through the night. By making use of activities like pre-sleep baths, body massages, therapies involving connecting with sand and water, special objects that reduce the effect of sounds and lights, making use of certain smells to induce sleep, are all used in a combination to tackle the problem.
2. Activities that Help Integrate Various Senses
Children may face problem responding to all the stimulation and triggers of the environment. These can be combated by making use of techniques that create a deep calming pressure in the presence of the child. Even use of a bean bag creates a softness in the environment that immediately calms everything down. Making use of stress balls, chewy toys, soft blankets, is good occupational therapy for ADHD child, too.
3. Activities that Improve Limb Coordination
Some kids might not be able to judge their limb movements with eyes or fail to use a particular side. With hand-eye coordination activities, children are encouraged to use bats and balls to try and hit it successfully, or catch a ball by judging it well. For kids that cannot use either left or right side of the body in a decent manner, bilateral activities like rope pulling, dough kneading, using a rolling pin and so on can be quite helpful.
4. Activities that Help Improve Visual Perception
Many children have trouble perceiving shapes of three-dimensional spaces. This can be handled by making clay shaped objects and letting them examine it. Baking cakes in various alphabet shapes, using moulds to match them, can help further. Jigsaw puzzles of a simpler level can work wonders in that regard.
5. Activities that Build on Motor Skills
If a child has a problem using his hands or feet properly, many exercises are focused on twisting the wrists, bending the fingers, and so on. Special scissors can be used to help him cut paper properly. For movement related problems, undertaking supervised swimming, or balancing while walking on a thin platform, can be useful as well.
6. Activities that Encourage Cognitive Thinking
These kids need encouragement in trying out things in a different way. This could be attained by letting them paint something with a cloth instead of a brush, or flipping coins in a box from a distance, or undertaking craft related activities that help with visual as well as limb improvement skills.
Occupational therapy exercises for children are a dime a dozen. But their application needs a proper understanding of your child and his issues. Moreover, maintaining your kid’s self-esteem as he resolves these issues is extremely important and plays a vital role in turning him into a successful individual ahead.