An occupational therapist assesses and considers various treatments for individuals who struggle with daily living and work skills due to a physical, mental, or cognitive disorder. The primary goal is to assist patients in overcoming daily challenges to achieve an independent life.
Occupational therapy can benefit people of all ages, especially children. The sooner parents notice the warning signs of a child struggling with daily tasks, the easier it will be for the child to develop new skills and cope with their challenges. A parent may notice that their child actively avoids activities that include fine motor skills, as they realize they have difficulty performing certain tasks. An overreaction to certain sounds, smells, and touch, may be a symptom of a sensory issue, and therapy may help a child to cope better. A child may also need assistance if they rarely initiate or engage independently in activities or social groups.
Poor Fine Motor Skills
Parents may notice that their child will avoid certain activities due to their poor fine motor skills and coordination. For example, a child may have issues using scissors, holding and gripping a pencil or crayon, folding paper, or even writing their name. As a result, the child would try to avoid any writing, drawing, or craft-related activities at school. Poor fine motor skills will also affect their ability to hold and manipulate small objects, so a child may also experience frustration while handling some toys, games, or puzzles. It’s not limited to activities; a child may also show difficulty with putting on shoes, buttoning a coat, and handling dinner utensils at an age when they should have mastered these tasks.
Poor coordination is another warning sign that children may need occupational therapy. Children may frequently fall or crash into things or people due to their lack of balance. A therapist will guide the child towards techniques that will help them improve their coordination and achieve success in daily life and academics.
Overreaction to Stimuli
Occupational therapy can benefit children who show signs of hypersensitivity to sounds, smells, touch, or tastes. A child that is overreactive to stimuli may have difficulty coping with change or be easily distracted by any sight or sound. Alternately, a child may also underreact to stimuli; for instance, they may show signs of high pain tolerance.
Over or underreactive responses may indicate a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder, in which the brain has trouble receiving sensory information and organizing it into appropriate responses. Many children with this disorder may be able to cope with the overwhelming symptoms with the guidance of an occupational therapist.
Lack of Initiation
Some children struggle with social skills and social interactions, leading to a potentially negative impact on their academic and personal life. Fortunately, social skills can be improved with the help of therapy.
Issues with social interaction go beyond difficulties in engaging with family and peers. A child may also have issues adapting to new environments and situations. Parents may also notice that their child lacks initiation in social groups and interests that are new and involve other peers, choosing to observe from the outside rather than actively participate.