Occupational Therapy (OT) focuses on helping and empowering children to utilise their strengths to excel. It helps children understand their body and the ways it responds to different input.
The holistic nature of OT also involves helping a child make changes and to develop strategies that will allow a child to maximise their participation and learning in different environments and situations.
Emotional and Sensory Regulation
Children with emotional and sensory regulation issues can often appear to be upset without any clear cause. They can appear to have "behavioural problems" with frequent tantrums that can last for long periods of time. Occupational therapists work to help a child improve their ability to self-regulate through working on possible issues with sensory processing/sensitivities that might be contributing to emotional dysregulation, as well as collaborating with caregivers to find solutions and strategies that can help manage a child's excessive emotional outbursts.
Everything we do in daily life involves movement. The ability to move in a functional manner specific to different tasks is therefore an extremely important skill that a child needs to enable participation in any learning or across activities.
Children learn in an exploratory manner through play. They run about, climb up on things, crawl through others. Some children however, might not have the ability - or have not learnt to - move in a manner that facilitates this learning. Illness, extreme fear, injury or attentional difficulties are some of the possible contributing issues. An occupational therapist thus works with the child at a developmental level so that they'll be equipped with the skills necessary to acquire high-level skills.
Additionally, an occupational therapist might also help work on strategies to manage fatigue, address safety awareness etc.
Handwriting goes beyond the act of holding a pencil and scribbling out lines of letters and words. There are often several reasons why a child is unable to write competently.
Occupational therapists will carry out handwriting evaluations and assessments to determine why a child is struggling with handwriting. They will then work with a child on issues such as developing proper posture, adequate muscle strength, as well as learning how to form letters correctly, along with strategies to help support their handwriting development.
Self Care Skills
The ability to self care is crucial to a child developing independence. This is why working on skills such as dressing, toileting, teeth brushing etc. can prove extremely critical in enabling a child to gain confidence and develop an ability to care for themselves competently.
Self care can include several different skill components, which is why it can be difficult for some children to perform certain tasks competently when there are areas of deficit. An occupational therapist can help to address these issues through use of different strategies (for e.g. visual schedules), adaptations/modifications, increasing strength/stability, amongst others.
Visual-motor and Visual-perceptual Skills
Visual-motor and visual-perceptual skills help a child learn how to make sense of what they see.
Some of these skills include:
Visual memory: the ability to store/remember visual information
Visual discrimination: the ability to match/tell apart two objects that are the same or different
Figure ground: the ability to find an object even when hidden amongst busy backgrounds/surroundings (e.g. "Where's Waldo")
Form constancy: the ability to realise that two objects share the same form even if different in size, colour, position etc.
Visual closure: the ability to realise that two objects are the same even if a part/feature of one is missing