You would most likely think that occupational therapy is for those who have an occupation, and that this type of therapy wouldn’t apply to children. But actually, children can have certain weak or delayed development skills where an occupational therapist can help. The purpose of pediatric occupational therapy is to help children become independent in their life; their home, school, and social life. If we consider that playing and learning is the ‘occupation’ of children, then it’s important for you to understand and notice some signs that the development of your child’s abilities and skills might not be appropriate to their age.
For children with developmental delays or a physical or mental condition associated with a high probability of delays, Occupational therapy can help improve their motor, cognition, sensory processing, communication, and even playing skills. With the right therapist, you may be surprised with what your child can overcome and improve his or herself.
To know if an occupational therapist is needed, here are five signs that you should watch out for.
Poor motor skills
There’s a difference between being clumsy and the inability to hold and control a pencil, for example, or finding it difficult to cut, color or fold. These are basic skills that children should be able to perform by a certain age, so they might need help to develop the muscles in their hands and fingers. A therapist might also work on hand-eye coordination to improve these skills.
Difficulty reaching age-appropriate development
By certain ages, a child should be able to sit, walk, talk, etc. A child who is slow in development might not be able to learn, develop, play and social skills, or communicate at an age-appropriate level.
Inability to focus
A short attention span is normal. However, we know that it can be a sign of attention deficit disorder (ADD), but not necessarily. Yet, if your child is extremely sensitive to different distractions, they might overreact or underreact to stimulants, and their impulsiveness can be quite higher than other children. They can also show erratic arousal levels and alertness, as well as slow or difficult language processing.
Weak social skills
Again, we must differentiate between a child who does something wrong or inappropriate out of ignorance, and those that seem intended on what adults would view as misbehavior. These children will have an excessive need for intense movement like jumping, rocking, swinging, and spinning. They might not take kindly to sharing toys or engaging with others, while also displaying obsessive behavior.
Dislike for change
While lots of kids are interested in trying and experiencing new things, these children are very cautious and fear of new experiences. They can become extremely upset when a simple change in routine happens.
As a parent, it’s critical to remember that not all aspects of development have to be exactly on time. It doesn’t mean that something is definitely wrong if your child isn’t holding the pencil correctly yet. It’s just very important to keep an eye on the progress of your child. You might notice some slowness or extreme behavior, but it is an occupational therapist who will determine if your child needs and can benefit from the different therapies available out there.