The job of “living” can be complicated. We have a lot of things to accomplish on our to-do lists each day. But imagine if even the simplest tasks were causing us trouble. What if we struggled with manipulating a toothbrush, buttoning a shirt, zipping a zipper, tying a shoelace, dialing numbers on a phone, writing with a pencil, or pouring juice into a glass? We take these simple tasks for granted, but a child who becomes disabled or is born with a developmental delay must struggle to master them. These kids want to “get busy living,” just like the rest of us, but those important life skills are obstacles for them. This is where occupational therapy plays an important role.
What is an occupational therapist?
An occupational therapist (OT) is a health professional who has completed a course of study in biological, medical, or behavioral sciences, to receive a bachelors, masters, or doctors degree. They take classes in anatomy, orthopedics, psychology, psychiatry, and neurology. Some OTs have special expertise in sensory integration therapy.
How can an occupational therapist help my child?
If your child has any kind of illness, muscle disorder, injury, cognitive impairment, or mental illness which affects her ability to perform age-appropriate life skills, an OT can be very helpful. First, the OT will provide assessments to see where your child’s greatest problems lie. And then he or she can provide therapy in your home, in a group setting, or during special sessions at school, depending on the situation.
Your son or daughter’s “occupation” is to be a child, and so therapy will consist not only of life-skills training, but therapeutic play. All kinds of play therapy activities can be used by the OT which will help your child strengthen and coordinate muscles, improve motor planning and sequencing, and develop gross and fine motor skills. Your son or daughter will have fun working with an OT!
How can I get occupational therapy for my child?
If your child is receiving special education services, you should be able to request occupational therapy for your child during an IEP meeting. Schedule an IEP if necessary—you have the right to do this at any time. If your child is an infant or preschool-aged, you will need to take the initiative to start the evaluation process yourself. This usually begins with a simple trip to your pediatrician, where you thoroughly discuss your observations. If your child’s doctor does not seem concerned, have him or her explain his position clearly. If you are still worried, you should contact your state’s early intervention program.
For more information about occupational therapy, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association website.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.