Occupational Therapy (OT) might be something you have never heard of, or you may associate it with someone that helps set up your desk at work. Occupational Therapists work with a wide range of people, from babies to the elderly and in a range of settings from hospitals to prisons and our main focus is always on optimising participation and engagement in all areas of your life, in all of your occupations.
When an OT is working with children, one of the main aims is to increase the function and participation of the child in all of their environments, whether it is the home, school or even sporting groups. The occupations and roles the child assumes are varied, from student, player, sibling to team mate. Many schools partner with an OT and have a therapist visit their school on a regular basis to support the school in helping its students to participate to the best of their ability.
Lil Peeps therapists, refer to the “House of OT” to remind families and teacher of where development begins. Just like a house needs a strong and stable base, so too does a child. The sensory elements form the base of the child’s house and we need to consider all of these building blocks of the house as the child progresses throughout school. The building blocks refer to domains such as core strength, motor planning, fine motor skills, balance, coordination and writing skills.
The “roof” or the top level skills a child develops include self esteem, self control, academic learning. This house is a good reminder, to check all the building blocks and “base” of our children are in place before expecting these top level skills to consolidate.
Lil Peeps therapists understand that children are “work in progress” so our role is to help them develop the skills to ensure they finish building their house.
What will therapy look like?
It may be overwhelming if you need advice from a therapist regarding your child, or someone such as your child’s teacher suggests they see a therapist for an assessment. Sometimes this is a surprise to families, as they may not see difficulties with their child’s participation in the home or social environments before. Children may commonly be referred to Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists.
What is an assessment?
Therapy can take various forms and it often starts with an assessment which can help identify your child’s strengths and areas of challenge for them. This may include a discussion with the caregivers and teaching staff, and usually, include activities with your child to identify specific areas of need. The assessment process helps therapists design strategies that help your child develop.
What does therapy look like?
Therapy does not always mean that you have to take your child to see a therapist on a regular basis. Some therapists may consider seeing your child regularly (like once a week) to work on specific skills, however, they may work in different ways such as consultation.
Evidence tells us that embedding strategies and tools within the child’s everyday environment can have a significant impact on their development and participation. For example, it may be recommended that your child’s teacher tries specific exercises with the students before a writing activity, which the whole class can participate in. This can improve your child’s core strength and shoulder stability, which will assist them in holding a pencil correctly for writing tasks in class.
Therapists may also consider looking at programs available in the community and suggest particular sporting or dance programs that can also assist your child’s development.
You may also learn ways to modify simple tasks or activities within the home to help your child achieve more success with a specific area of need, such as adding language elements into play routines, or changing the routine in the morning when getting ready for school to increase independence.
Therapists may suggest you meet with them once you have trialled the strategies to make sure it is targeting the area of need and having an impact on your child’s development.
What can I expect my child to achieve?
Therapy does not always “fix a problem”; however through guided support it promotes growth and development for that individual child. Every child and journey toward independence is different. Through the input of a therapist, families gain an understanding of their child’s needs and appreciate the barriers that their child may face in the home, class or community. Through this understanding it becomes easier to help address the difficulty, or compensate for that area of challenge in the future and ensure your child achieves success in childhood.