Parenting 101: What Types of Activities Does an Occupational Therapist Help With?

What types of activities does an occupational therapist help with for children?

Occupational therapy assists people to do the things they want and need to do by the therapeutic use of daily activities. This therapy serves individuals of all ages (including children) by helping them to master key skills to live meaningful and healthy lives. But what types of activities does an occupational therapist help with in children? Let’s explore this question!

The Role of Occupational Therapy

Some of the most popular occupational therapy interventions for children include:

  • Assisting children with disabilities to participate in school and social settings.
  • Helping children recover from injury to regain skills.
  • Improving their physical and cognitive abilities. 

Occupational therapy services usually span the following areas:

  • Initial evaluation: The client/family and the occupational therapist determine that child’s goals. 
  • Customized treatment plan: The carefully scheduled intervention is geared toward improving the child’s ability to perform daily activities and achieve set goals.
  • Outcomes evaluation: This ensures that goals are being met and that any necessary changes are being made to the treatment plan. 

Occupational therapists follow a holistic perspective. This means that they focus on adapting the environment or task to fit the person. In that way, the client (or child) plays an integral role in the therapy that is being done. 

How Does An Occupational Therapy Program Work?

Occupational therapy is patient-centric as it always places the patient’s goals first. The occupational therapist will design and follow the child’s treatment plan. They will assist them in managing their daily activities in easier and more effective ways. This will help them to learn new methods to complete basic tasks, and discover certain ways to modify their existing routines for simplicity. 

To ensure the best results from the treatment plan, an occupational therapist may visit the patient’s school, home, or any other location to observe their daily routines. This also helps the therapist to recommend any adaptive equipment that may help that patient. 

The occupational therapist will also teach the patient how to use adaptive equipment safely and effectively. In the initial meeting, the occupational therapist will ask the client about what is most important to them. This serves as the motivation for them to keep working at regaining their skills. 

The Four Types of Intervention in Occupational Therapy

Painting is one purposeful activity that aids children during occupational therapy sessions

These four interventions represent the different methods used by occupational therapists to treat patients: 

Therapeutic Use of Self

The occupational therapist plans the use of the patient’s personality, insights, perceptions, and judgments as part of the therapeutic process.

Therapeutic Use of Occupations and Activities

The therapist selects occupations and activities for specific patients, which can also be used to fulfill therapeutic goals. However, to use occupations and activities therapeutically, the context, activity’s demands, and the client’s characteristics must all be considered vis-a-vis the patient’s therapeutic goals. These can be further considered in three sub-categories:

Occupation-Based Activity

Patients engage in behaviors or activities that match their own goals and lifestyles. For example, therapy may utilize the child’s playtime and dressing themselves without assistance. 

Purposeful Activity

Patients participate in goal-directed, therapeutic behaviors that lead to an occupation. In the case of children, this can include drawing, painting, or role-playing to learn how to manage emotions. 

Preparatory Methods

These interventions prepare patients for occupational performance. These preparatory methods may include sensory stimuli and exercise.

Consultation Process

The occupational therapist shares their knowledge and expertise with the patient. The therapist works with the child/family to identify the problem, devise possible solutions, and change them as needed for greater effectiveness.

Education Process

The occupational therapist empowers the child/family with information about how these activities will improve cognitive and physical capabilities. 

What Skills Do Occupational Therapists Work On?

Let’s explore the skills that occupational therapists help to develop:

Sensory Issues

For hyper-sensitive children, occupational therapists may recommend special seating and testing in a separate room to avoid sensory overload. Interventions like sensory gyms allow children to engage in activities like swinging, jumping into bean bags, and jumping on trampolines. There are also sensory breaks throughout the day to allow children to enjoy physical exercises and several products like fidgets and chewable pencil tops to help children stay calm. 

Other occupational therapy interventions include joint compressions and brushing of the skin to help reorient the brain so children can integrate and respond to sensory input. This helps them to feel more comfortable and secure in their environment. 

Gross Motor Skills

What skills do occupational therapists work on? Gross motor skills is one of these focuses

When the major muscle groups are compromised, a child will have problems with balance, coordination, strength, and endurance. This, in turn, affects their ability to walk, climb stairs, hop, jump, catch and throw a ball, etc. Furthermore, low muscle tone and core body strength affect a child’s ability to sit upright and alert. 

Therefore, occupational therapy focuses on children playing catch with balls of various sizes and weights, negotiating obstacle courses, and riding trikes. These serve to improve a child’s balance and coordination and build strength and endurance. Also, crab walking, curls, rolling, and bouncing on a therapy ball will also help. Occupational therapists often work with physical therapists to improve these motor skills. 

Fine Motor Skills

The fine motor skills focus on small hand muscles. When there’s a lack of strength, motor control, and manual dexterity, then children will have difficulty in drawing, using scissors, and completing intricate tasks. If such delays are not addressed, then simple skills like turning pages, writing, buttoning, zipping clothes, and using utensils may become issues for the child. 

Occupational therapists use a lot of interesting techniques to develop children’s fine motor skills. For example, painting and using cutlery help to foster control, dexterity, and thumb and finger holds. Popping bubble wrap is not only a fun activity but also improves manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination.

Self-Help Skills

Occupational therapists help children develop the necessary self-help skills. Children may need to work on developing fine motor skills to help them dress, undress, groom, and feed themselves. The therapist often models these skills and helps children to become proficient in these skills. Of course, if a child has sensory issues, then the therapist will modify the interventions to help them develop these skills.

Contact Moving With Hope for Expert Occupational Therapy

What types of activities does an occupational therapist help with? We have explored some of these beneficial interventions for children. Do you need the best occupational therapists? Then contact Moving With Hope. We have the experts who will give you the customized support that your child needs. We invite you to contact us today to discover how we can assist you.

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