Has your child been diagnosed with a developmental disability?
Do you suspect they may have one?
Are they struggling in school, falling behind their peers?
If so, pediatric occupational therapy can help.
Pediatric occupational therapy is a type of healthcare geared toward helping children overcome the obstacles that interfere with the occupations of their daily life.
Here at Little Feet Therapy, occupational therapy is one of the therapeutic services we offer. Read on to find out more about pediatric occupational therapy, and how your child can benefit.
What Is An Occupational Therapist?
An occupational therapist is somebody who holds both a master’s degree in occupational therapy, and is licensed by the American Occupational Therapy Association. They provide treatments designed to help patients complete their required activities of daily living, called occupations.
When you hear the word “occupational” in occupational therapy, the first thing that might come to mind is that of jobs or careers. But occupational therapists use the term differently.
In this case, “occupation” refers to the things in your life that occupy your time. That does include your job for adults, but it also refers to a number of other things you do during the day, referred to as activities of daily living.
When it comes to occupational therapy for kids, the activities that occupy their time mostly revolve around exploring their world and understanding how it works.
However, there are a number of different conditions that can get in the way of your child’s mission, including:
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Down syndrome
- Sensory processing disorder
- Spina bifida
- Duchene muscular dystrophy
- Learning disabilities
- Vision issues
- Brain injury
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delays
If your child has been diagnosed with one of the above conditions, or you suspect they may have one, a pediatric occupational therapist can help.
How Does A Pediatric Occupational Therapy Appointment Work?
Your first appointment with your pediatric occupational therapist will focus mostly on getting to know your child. Each occupational therapy treatment plan is individualized to your child’s needs, so this data gathering phase is important.
Your child’s occupational therapist will talk with you about your concerns. They’ll ask about any diagnoses they’ve received, history of any injuries they’ve experienced, the activities they need and like to do, and where they’re struggling.
From there, your occupational therapist for kids will evaluate your child to get a better understanding of their physical condition. This includes their range of motion, balance, strength, flexibility, and more.
Next, your occupational therapist will put together a treatment plan that includes realistic and measurable goals designed to help your child overcome their obstacles.
Depending on your child’s unique condition, they may recommend seeing a pediatric physical therapistalongside occupational therapy.
Pediatric Occupational Therapy Milestones
Every child is different. That’s true of their personalities, their height, the color of their hair, and their physical development, along with about a thousand other things.
There are, however, a number of milestones your child is generally expected to meet when it comes to their physical development.
If they’re a couple weeks behind but they’re showing progress, that’s not generally cause for concern. But if the date has passed and they’re not even beginning to develop in these areas, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with Little Feet Therapy.
- They squeeze objects placed in their hands
- They scratch at or grab their blanket
- They look at their hands
- They purposefully reach and swipe with their arms
- They reach forward with both arms
- They bring their hands to their mouth
- They reach while on their belly without losing balance
- They move objects from one hand to the other
- They can feed themselves simple finger foods
- They can hold their bottle
- They shake toys and hit them against things
- They reach in all directions
- They play simple arm games like peek-a-boo
- They poke with their index finger
- They can drop objects into containers
- They can feed themselves more complex finger foods
- They grab using their thumb and first two fingers (pincer grasp)
- They remove their own socks
- They can push, pull, rotate, or squeeze objects with their hands
- They can hit two objects together in each hand
- They can begin to drink from a cup
- They point at objects with their index finger
- They can put different shapes into matching holes
- They can stack blocks two to five high
- They can scribble
- They can place small objects into small containers
- They can feed themselves with a spoon
- They can complete an interlocking puzzle
- They can stack blocks up to eight high
- They can turn pages in a book
- They can draw simple objects, like lines and circles
- They can screw and unscrew jar lids
- They can string beads
- They can hold a crayon with thumb and fingers
- They can use scissors imprecisely
- They can stack blocks up to ten high
- They can fold and crease paper
- They can draw more complex objects, like a cross or a simple person
- They can color in a coloring book while attempting to stay in the lines
- They can use a fork to feed themselves
- They can string beads
- They can cut with scissors
- They can draw squares, triangles, and x’s
- They can draw more complex people
- They can button buttons on their clothing
- They can open all fasteners on their clothing
- They can dress themselves independently
- They can use scissors with precision to cut a straight line
- They correctly identify all letters and numbers
- They are independent in putting on and taking off their socks and shoes
- They develop a clear hand dominance
- They are independent in toileting
- They can accurately write letters and numbers
Why Is Occupational Therapy Important?
From the moment we’re born until the day we die, we never stop learning. However, it’s been shown that children learn more in the first five years of their life than they do at any other period of their lives.
Why is this?
Essentially, a newborn baby knows nothing. They have instinctual programming that drives them to breastfeed and to relieve themselves, but otherwise they’re almost completely helpless.
As a result, when they begin learning, they’re doing so quite literally from scratch.
It’s important for your baby to be able to explore this new world they’ve found themselves in. As they grow, they develop fine motor skills which help them do so.
This includes skills like:
- Bilateral hand coordination – using both hands in a coordinated fashion
- Pincer grasp – holding something pinched between two fingers
- Eye hand coordination – using visual information as a way to coordinate hand movement
- Cylindrical grasp – holding an object, like a broom handle, with all four fingers and thumb wrapped around it
- Spherical grasp – fingers and thumb wrapped around to hold a round object
- Hand dominance – the development of a dominant hand
- And many more
When children have impairment in their fine motor skills, it ends up standing in the way of their being able to explore and learn things about the world.
This can cause a number of different issues down the road, including difficulty in school, in their career, and in social situations.
However, pediatric occupational therapy interventions can help.
In particular, early intervention occupational therapy has been shown to be especially beneficial in helping children overcome their barriers.
Discover the difference pediatric occupational therapy can make.
Pediatric occupational therapy can help your child to more freely explore the world around them, learning new skills that will lay the foundation for a fulfilling independent life.
Book your appointment with Little Feet Therapy today