Occupational therapy is a huge field that is gaining popularity. More educators, professionals and doctors are seeing how this simple intervention can help children in a myriad of ways. Since occupational therapy covers such a wide range of issues, it can be difficult to understand. The most basic goal of occupational therapy is to help children and adults learn the skills they need to accomplish tasks used in everyday life. Still wondering how occupational therapy might be able to help your child? Here are eight benefits your child may reap from occupational therapy.
1. Increased fine motor skills
One of the most common goals in occupational therapy is to address difficulties that a child is experiencing in tasks that involve fine motor skills such as cutting with scissors, putting together a puzzle or buttoning a shirt. If a child struggles with holding a pencil, they will find it difficult to write which will, in turn, affect their academic progress. In fact, a study found that the strongest predictor of a special education referral was a lack of fine motor skills. Occupational therapists can help children practice these important skills to help them succeed in the classroom and beyond.
2. Screening for assistive devices
An increase in awareness of special needs has resulted in more devices becoming available that assist children and adults in various ways with activities they encounter in everyday life. An occupational therapist can help assess your child’s need for devices such as wheelchairs, communication aids, sensory aids, dressing devices, splints or even items as simple as a pencil grip. You might be surprised at what a huge difference a small device can make in your child’s life.
3. Better sensory integration
Children who have even mild sensory issues can benefit from working with a professional towards greater integration. Encouraging studies have shown that occupational therapy with an emphasis on sensory integration can help children with autism engage in age-appropriate activities. Some children present sensory seeking behaviors such as repeatedly bumping into others or compulsively chewing non-food items while others are sensory avoidant and may have a difficult time with loud noises or stimulating activities like toothbrushing.
4. Address hand-eye coordination difficulties
Some children may have difficulties with activities that require motor planning skills such as catching a ball or copying from a blackboard. These difficulties can be tricky to identify, as a child may seem to have the necessary skills to accomplish all parts of the task but remains unable to put them all together. Occupational therapy can help correctly identify and overcome these problems.
5. Better behavior
An occupational therapist’s goal is to help their client participate more fully in the everyday activities of their life. If certain behavioral challenges are preventing a child from activities in school or the home, therapists can help address that. Some common behavioral problems that occupational therapy can assist with are difficulty waiting, acting out or being violent towards others when angry, self-harming and difficulty with transitions.
6. Assistance with social skills
Meeting new people or knowing how to act in certain social contexts can be difficult for all of us at times, but some children find social interaction particularly challenging. Occupational therapy can give them the tools they need to form social rewarding social relationships like introducing themselves, taking turns, back and forth conversation, attention and avoiding socially inappropriate behaviors.
With the help of a qualified therapist, children can achieve a myriad of goals in occupational therapy such as dressing themselves, writing, eating with utensils and much more. Helping them to gain skills in these tasks means that they will need less assistance on a regular basis and will gain a sense of independence which has positive outcomes for both the child and the caregivers.
As occupational therapy helps your child overcome more of their difficulties, they will gain greater confidence in their abilities. This self-confidence can help them to readily take on new challenges in the future. Occupational therapy is truly about so much more than helping a child learn how to get dressed or say hi to a friend. It’s a functional intervention to help your child live their life more fully and believe in their abilities.