Occupational therapy (OT) is a multi-disciplinary practice spanning a broad spectrum of areas and age groups. However, OT can be especially beneficial for certain children.
It essentially assists in life satisfaction and fulfilment through the development of various skills and patterns. These range from simple everyday tasks to increasing confidence and awareness of one’s surroundings.
Occupational therapy for children focusses on various physical, sensory and perceptive factors. Its aim is to assist children in attaining confidence and independence by developing how they think and act, thereby growing into well-rounded, capable teens and adults.
What are the signs that a child might need occupational therapy?
The indicators that a child may require OT generally begin at home and lead on to the classroom. Various tell-tale signs often manifest themselves in general behaviour, something Gaya says both parents and teachers should be on the lookout for.
Parents tend to be aware of their child’s progress or lack thereof,’ she explains. But with busy modern-day lifestyles, these signs can go unnoticed and are often picked up more readily in the classroom or playground, especially at primary school level.
Signs a child may need OT:
• Untidy and disorganised school work
• Poor attention, concentration and memory
• Difficulty with fine motor tasks such as handwriting, cutting and folding paper
• Lack of eye contact
• Dislike of certain foods, clothing, sounds, smells or bright lights
• Dislike interacting with peers
• Difficulty in communicating
These are clear signs that a child may be experiencing difficulty in life progression. For instance, a teacher might notice that a learner has difficulty sitting still in class and is a disruption to others. This is challenging for everyone, considering class sizes are between 25 to 45 learners at most mainstream schools.
Teamwork is best for long-term benefits
The process followed in dealing with a child who needs OT looks at the big picture. A full assessment of the child is paramount before any treatment plan is put in place, and all parties involved are included.
OT looks at the child and their environment as a whole. The assessment starts from the time a parent decides to book an appointment. I get a basic background telephonically, then get more details during an actual consultation. Various tests of physical and mental ability are performed to give the therapist a clearer idea of the treatment required.
A comprehensive treatment plan involves various measures that can be implemented both at home and at school. A complementary home and school programme is critical for long-term benefits. Real progress can only be made when everyone is involved – including the child, parents and teachers.