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How can Occupational Therapy (OT) support my child’s development?

When kids show delays in developing skills, OTs are often the first called in.

In my experience (working in various countries and now in Spain) interestingly enough the vast majority of parents and teachers are not aware of what OT is and how this method of therapy can support children and students.

Well let’s change this.

Occupational therapy, known as OT, is designed to help children and adults acquire (or regain) the skills needed to perform the activities—or “occupations”—of daily life.

When we talk about a child’s occupations this covers a vast array of skills;

Self-care: feeding, toileting, dressing, hygiene

Sensory Regulation: focus and attention stamina, regulating and transitioning ones brain and body between high movement activities to quiet sedentary tasks, sustaining attention when in a multi-sensory environment like a classroom, how the brain organizes-filters and uses all the incoming sensory information through our 7 senses; visual, smell, taste, hearing, touch, balance ( vestibular), muscle pace and force ( proprioception), levels of alertness to meet the activity demand ( engaging in PE versus reading time).

Movement: gross motor skills involving body and spatial awareness; how a child moves their body through various environments and around furniture, body coordination and organization, sequencing movements to achieve a task, strength and stamina, postural alignment to support sitting at table and carpet time, understanding how much muscle force and pace is required for a specific task, visual motor tracking and sustaining visual engagement.

Precision and Dexterity: fine motor skills involving toy and tool manipulation, use of both hands working together in play and fine motor games, shape and letter/handwriting skills, organizing materials to achieve an activity.

Social Skills: sustaining attention during a social interaction, listening-comprehending and responding, turn taking and impulse control, sharing, team exploration.

The above are just a few !

OT’s are masters at breaking down a simple task (like using utensils to eat dinner) into all the finer detailed steps and skills requires to achieve independence. We are child development detectives.

Why is OT often the first method of therapy to be used when supporting a child’s development?

An OT’s main role is to investigate, problem solve and find clarity on what aspect of the foundation of brain-neuro development is impacting a child’s independence within an occupation/activity. If a child has gaps in their brain foundation this can impact overall development; communication, emotional regulation, cognitive abilities, academic success.

Imagine you are climbing a ladder, you must climb each level to get to the top, well your brain is the exact same. Each level on the brain ladder must be developed, established and solidified in order for us to continue climbing. An OT works specifically on the first levels of the brain ladder; sensory systems, gross and fine motor development, visual perceptual and visual-motor skills. Once these aspects of development are established the brain is now ready to focus and work on communication, social-emotional development and cognitive/ academic skills.

OT’s work closely with Speech and Language Therapists, Social-Emotional Specialists and Teachers to ensure each level of a child’s brain ladder is ready for success.

What does an OT session look like:

An OT therapy space will look like a child’s gym, full of fun interactive equipment and games which will challenge your child’s developing skills while having fun. OT therapies main objective is to help your child develop the necessary sensory, physical, and cognitive skills so they can perform daily tasks more independently.

Sessions are sensory rich, interactive, physical and always play-based with the main objective of kids having fun. OT’s are experts at focusing on specific skills in various ways to keep kids engaged and motivated; Practice makes Permanent.

Why would my child need to work with an OT?

Every child is different in how they learn and develop, however here are some common reasons for an OT referral:

- My child finds staying focused on one task challenging

- My child cannot sit still to complete a task

- My child appears to have low stamina and weak muscles

- My child’s handwriting is illegible and unclear

- My child requires increased support to organize themselves

- My child becomes overwhelmed in specific environments; multi-sensory environments

- My child finds using utensils, holding their pencil, doing up buttons, tying their shoelaces challenging

- My child is not showing hand dominance ( by 3 years of age)

- My child demonstrates difficulties with cognitive skills; working memory, problem solving, initiating

- My child appears hyper active OR sluggish and tired often

- My child does not show motivation to socially engage with others, or finds playing with others difficult.

- My child finds academic learning difficult

- My child demonstrates sensitives to textures, is a picky eater, sensitive to noises, cries easily, uses an increased amount of force in their movements and play

Where can I find OT support for my child?

At Shine Child Development we are the Team Around the Child.

We aim to support children through a holistic, therapeutic and evidence-based process to ensure your child’s independence, happiness and success. It has been an absolute pleasure working along side other experienced and truly amazing therapists, supporting children along the Coast with Occupational Therapy intervention, Speech and Language and Social-Emotional Development.

You can find more information about our services and Occupational Therapy support via our website:

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