Occupational Therapy, commonly referred to as “OT”, helps people achieve independence in all aspects of their lives. For children specifically, Occupational Therapy helps to promote development of self-help skills (feeding, dressing, grooming); hand-eye coordination; sensory integration (ability to process sensory input such as sound, light, touch, smell); taste, textures, motor skills, regulatory behavior skills, and play skills.
If a child qualifies for OT Services through the developmental screening and evaluation process, those services will be provided by an Occupational Therapist or Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant in a child’s natural environment. For children ages birth through two years this is usually the home or a childcare setting. For children ages three through five years it is often a preschool or other educational setting. The goal of Occupational Therapy is to develop or improve a child’s skills for daily living and independence.
Main Areas of Focus for Occupational Therapy
Motor Skill Development
Motor skill development involves learning sequences of movements that when combined will produce a smooth, efficient action so that a child may master a particular task such as writing or cutting. Many factors contribute to a child’s motor skill abilities and rate of development. Uncontrollable factors that influence a child’s motor skills include genetic or inherited traits and/or learning disorders. Controllable factors include the environment/society and the child’s culture. Occupational Therapy focuses largely on fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are those skills that allow a child to do such things as write and manipulate small objects.
Self-Help Skill Development
Self-help skills allow children to be independent and do things on their own. The primary areas of self-help skills include: self-feeding, independent dressing and grooming, hygiene and toileting, and cooperative and play skills.
Sensory Processing Concerns
Children experience a variety of sensory issues while exploring and interacting within their environments. However, if these sensory concerns continue and/or escalate, it may hinder a child’s ability to learn or function appropriately in his/her environment. Sensory disorders in children need to be identified early so a child may receive proper treatment and intervention. The categories of sensory function include the following: tactile (touch), auditory (hearing), and visual (sight), taste, olfactory (smell), vestibular (movement and gravity), and proprioceptive (body awareness, muscles, and joints). Occupational Therapy helps children to organize and process sensory messages so that they can be successful in everyday activities.