What does an Occupational Therapist do?
Occupational therapists (also known as OTs) work with children to help them succeed in their occupations, or daily life activities. They provide treatment to target goals related to fine and gross motor skills and motor planning. Additionally, occupational therapy can also benefit children who struggle with self-regulation and sensory processing. Often times, OTs work alongside with speech language pathologists to maximize functional progress during therapy. The skills children learn in occupational therapy help build their independence and boost their self-confidence!
What does an Occupational Therapist treat?
Occupational therapy is designed to target a child’s individual goals. Occupational therapy practitioners are highly skilled professionals who use research based intervention techniques to help a child best reach their goals. An occupational therapist completes an evaluation and assesses which areas the child has most challenges with. The sorts of goals and skills an OT might work on with a child are:
- Handwriting and proper grasp of a pencil (fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination)
- Use of scissors (fine motor skills, motor planning)
- Throwing and catching (gross motor skills such as balance and body coordination)
- Self-care routines like getting dressed, tying shoe laces, brushing teeth
- Use of utensils/ self-feeding
- Climbing stairs, walking, hoping (gross motor skills)
- Improving attention and social skills
- Emotional regulation
- Sensory regulation (sensitivities to sounds, touch, movement)
Children who have difficulties with these sorts of tasks benefit from occupational therapy as early in age as possible. Early intervention is key to prevent greater delays later in life. There is no minimum age requirement for therapy. If you are seeing that your child is not meeting the developmental milestones for sitting, crawling, and walking, an evaluation done by an occupational therapist can help determine their need for therapy.
How does Occupational Therapy work?
During occupational therapy, a therapist will use exercises and activities to strengthen the skills the child is lacking. For example, if a child has difficulties with handwriting the OT might first address the way the child is holding the pencil and then provide visual guides for letters and spacing between words. If a child needs help with basic routines such as washing their hands, the OT will break down the process into small sections and then teach the child to first turn on the water, then put soap on their hands, finally scrub and rinse off. Once the child has learned all steps of the plan all they have to do is practice!
OTs can also assist children with sensory processing difficulties. Sensory processing is making sense of the information we receive through our senses, like sound or touch. If your child displays sensitivities to external stimuli such as having strong aversions to light or they often complain about irritating clothing, an OT can teach them sensory regulating activities to help decrease problem behaviors. For example, a child who experiences a lack of sensory input might be unable to sit still and constantly be reaching out to touch everything around them. An OT would have the child do simple exercises such as wheelbarrow walks or wall push-ups to help balance their sensory system. Occupational therapy also helps support a child’s emotional regulation and social skills. Peer interactions and participation are parts of a child’s day to day activities, and OTs help boost social and emotional competencies that are required for successful participation. An OT might provide movement breaks when a child is feeling frustrated or work on finding strategies to better navigate strong emotions, such as anger, outside the therapy space.
Who can Occupational Therapists help?
OTs can service a variety of individuals with:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Fine motor delays
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Down Syndrome
- Developmental delay
- Cerebral Palsy
- Spina bifida
- Orthopedic injuries
- Traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
- Birth injuries
Occupational Therapy in Miami
At Always Keep Progressing Miami, our trained bilingual occupational therapists provide services specifically tailored to each individual child to help grow their independence and fine-tune their occupational skills. Contact us for an evaluation if you are interested in our services!