6 Things You Didn’t Know About Occupational Therapy

Child sitting on sofa and holding book in front of her face

Pediatric Occupational Therapy centers on supporting children to build fundamental skills to grow confidently into independent adults.

Occupational Therapists help children develop the ability to cope with challenges, and to use calming strategies to deal with frustration, defuse anger, and manage impulsivity in order to succeed at individual tasks and collaborative interactions at home, at school, and in the community.

Injuries, physical deficiencies, or mental impairments, such as visual or sensory processing disorders, can get in the way of a young person’s ability to complete basic tasks or progress through the cognitive or social development stages appropriately.

Here are some things that you might not have known about pediatric occupational therapy.

1) Children Gain Help Processing Information

As a child, being able to process information, retain it, and then accomplish the task at hand, builds self-esteem by leaps and bounds. Occupational Therapists help children overcome the challenges presented when they have difficulty with any of these skills. Processing disorders blocks certain aspects of a child’s mind from getting important messages to correctly interpret information. These challenges can make it hard for the child to behave appropriately, manage his or her anxiety, thrive at school, and navigate other obstacles

2) Children Can Master Foundational Abilities That Lay the Groundwork for Lifelong Skills

Children who have problems processing visual information would most likely benefit from seeing an occupational therapist. Children who have difficulties with their visual-motor abilities, visual memory, and processing things they see, could find later on that these hindrances might impact their writing, reading, math, and tracking skills. This could explain why they forget numbers and letters, have trouble putting numbers in order, and why they write letters backward.

3) Children Have Support in Learning How to Complete Activities That Take Them Through Their Own Day

Some children benefit greatly when they have the support of an Occupational Therapist to dedicate time and allow space for them to focus on the skills that they still need to develop. Activities of daily living are regular actions taken every day without requiring help. Examples of this are getting dressed or undressed, brushing teeth, or tying shoes. If a child needs extra help mastering these skills, an Occupational Therapist can help by focusing on exercises to build strength in areas that will help them reach the goals they are trying to accomplish.

4) Children Have Help Learning How to Cross-Brain Think

If a child is struggling with higher learning tasks such as reading and writing, an Occupational Therapist can evaluate physical movements and motor functions in order to see if there is a deficiency in cross-brain thinking. A child may be extremely athletic but can have an unrealized difficulty of “crossing the midline” which means they could have trouble reaching their right hand down to their left toes, or their left elbow down to their right knee and vice versa. Practice and help from an Occupational Therapist will help coordinate motor function and allow the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate (cross-brain thinking). By physically activating both sides of the brain and allowing them to work together, children are able to tap into higher learning concepts such as reading and writing. 

5) Children Can Further Develop Their Hand-Eye Coordination Skills

Children that need to practice their coordination can come a long way if they are given the chance to receive the help they need. Dys Occupational therapy can be a great resource for improving their handwriting, social skills, visual perception, fine motor skill development, reading (tracking), and motor planning.

6) All Areas of a Young Person’s Occupational Development Can Be Enriched

Some children truly benefit from a little extra attention to their needs. Since a child’s occupation is to learn and play, occupational therapists focus on developing the right skills for school achievement, daily activities, and playing that corresponds with what’s suitable for the child’s age group.

In short, occupational therapy can serve many children, including infants who were born prematurely, children with ADHD, and those who have trouble with reading or writing. Overall, occupational therapy helps children tremendously when their sensory, physical, cognitive, and motor skills could use some extra attention. Since each of these tasks builds into their feeling of accomplishment and self-esteem, addressing these foundational areas is a great step to take.