“Limitations are but boundaries created inside our minds,” they say. But limitations that are brought on by developmental delay or neurodevelopmental conditions, need not be permanent or limiting. I frequently refer my patients to occupational therapists, when my assessment findings indicate that a given child’s hand-eye coordination skills, or their day-to-day activities are delayed and can be improved. In this blog I have explained what occupational therapy is and what the benefits of having such therapy could be?
Basically, occupational therapy is concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. It is the art and science of enabling people to actively participate in their day-to-day activities despite illness, impairment, or disability.
OT can enhance participation in activities of everyday life such as:
- Work/productive activities, e.g., schoolwork (adult-directed activities).
- Play/leisure activities (child-directed activities).
- Self-care activities, e.g., activities of daily living.
The activities of daily living (ADL) include:
- Toilet hygiene.
- Personal hygiene and grooming.
- Eating and feeding.
- Functional mobility.
- Sleep and rest.
Instrumental activities of daily living (ADL) are more complex activities that are needed for adult independence such as:
- Community mobility.
- Shopping, meal preparation, and clean up.
- Home management (e.g., laundry, cleaning, household maintenance).
- Health maintenance and safety/emergency responses.
- Financial management.
Benefits of Paediatric Occupational Therapy
Following is the comprehensive list of benefits that could come from having occupational therapy:
- Improve gross motor skills: Gross motor skills involve the large muscles of the body which are important for crawling, walking, jumping, catching a ball etc. OT can help your child improve these skills as they are important for locomotion, stability, postural control, and balance.
- Improve fine motor skills: Fine motor skills are those related to the coordination of the smaller muscles of your hands and fingers. Fine motor skills are important for academic success, manipulating clothing fasteners, etc. An OT can help improve your child’s fine motor coordination skills to enhance their ability to complete everyday tasks more independently.
- Increase independence in activities of daily living: ADL are those important routine activities such as feeding, dressing, and grooming. OT can help your child complete daily living routines with increased independence and ease.
- Address sensory processing difficulties: OT can help your child better receive and respond to the sensory input they are receiving whether it be tolerating different types of clothing, decreasing sensory seeking for better regulation, or trying new food textures. You could find more information on sensory processing difficulties at http://spdfoundation.net/index.html.
- Increase overall strength and stability: strength and stability are a few of those foundational skills that are needed to complete everyday tasks. By developing these foundational skills, your child will be able to complete fine/visual motor activities and manoeuvre their environments with increased ease.
- Enhance social and play skills: OT can enhance a child’s social and play skills with peers by working on functional play, taking turns, sharing, expressing emotions, understanding social cues, etc.
- Improve executive functioning skills: OT can address executive functioning skills such as attention, organization, initiation, sequencing, and memory to improve academic performance and ability to complete daily routines more independently.
- Provide caregiver and teacher education: OT can also provide education and home programs to help your child carryover skills learned in therapy to the home and classroom.
- Improve visual perceptual/visual motor skills: these skills involve your ability to organize and interpret visual input and give it meaning. An OT can help to improve your child’s visual motor/perceptual skills as they are important for everyday tasks such as handwriting, playing, and reading.
- Help with the use of assistive technology: OT can help to see if your child will benefit from using assistive technology and will educate you on how to use it appropriately to help your child’s functional capabilities. Some examples of assistive technology are adaptive scissors, weighted feeding utensils, or dressing aids!
In summary, an occupational therapist as part of their assessment gain information regarding the abilities of child, performance patterns, activity limitations, and ultimately concerns and priorities of parents and teachers. Following an in-depth assessment, an occupational therapist can help in setting up collaborative goals to address any limitations and performance restrictions in a given child. The benefits of OT detailed above demonstrate the advantages of undertaking an early assessment and then implementing the interventions to maximise the potential of your child.
Neurodisability and Community Child Health (Oxford Specialist Handbooks in Paediatrics) Paperback – Published on 17 May 2022. Edited by Srinivas Gada. Published by Oxford University Press. 736 Pages. ISBN-13 978-0198851912.