Children achieve many milestones within their first 5 years. During this time, they are walking, running, talking, developing social and communication skills but there are some children that may have issues with these, especially in the classroom. This is where an occupational therapist or an OT can help.
Occupational Therapists can help children with a variety of conditions including cerebral palsy, autism, and attention deficit disorder in the preschool environment. OTs work together with teachers, parents, and carers to improve a child’s cognitive, gross motor, fine motor, communication, and social skills. They may also address issues to help children develop play and sensory processing skills.
Although each child has different goals based on their needs, the main goal is to minimise delays, enhance development, and teach parents how to meet the needs of their child. To achieve this, the OT will need to do an initial assessment of the child which will include consulting with parents & their educators, along with assessing the child. The OT will then collaborate with teachers and other healthcare professionals such as speech therapists and / or psychologists to write an individualised program.
What can Occupational Therapists help with?
- Delayed Fine Motor Skills – skills requiring use of small muscles in the hand. Difficulty in holding a pencil or crayon with the fingers; difficulty in threading beads; unable to stay on the line as much as possible while cutting using scissors, name writing, etc.
- Delayed Gross Motor Skills – skills requiring larger muscle movements. Difficulty throwing and catching a ball; unable to balance on one foot; poor posture, unable to jump, etc.
- Lack of Attention – has difficulty maintaining attention in class or to a conversation; is fidgety or has difficulty staying seated for any length of time; has difficulty remembering things mentioned to him/her, fidgets while seated for story time / mat time.
- Hyperactivity – is impulsive and always seems to be in “turbo speed”
- Visual Scanning Problems – has difficulty copying information from the board at school; slow to find hidden objects in a picture or words in a word search, trouble locating a pair or socks, or a toy in a cluttered draw.
- Visual-Perception Problems – has difficulty judging spatial distances between self and objects; may not take note of details or distinguishing features of an object; has difficulty with puzzles or copying shape designs.
- Sensory Concerns – seems to be somewhat excessive in their responses (responds too much or too little) to sounds, movement (covers ears), touching and being touched, types of clothing, food textures, etc (could strongly desire the input or resist it), bothered by tags on clothing or seams in socks, dislikes hair cutting / brushing, does not like messy play, etc.
- Poor Body Awareness – may be seen as “clumsy”; may run into things often or break things; may appear disheveled with shoes untied, clothing not adjusted properly, food on face or shirt, etc.
- Feeding problems – difficulty chewing or swallowing; holds food in cheeks; picky or messy eater; has poor postural control and/or difficulty holding and using cutlery.
- Self-care Skills – has difficulty with age-appropriate dressing, feeding, personal hygiene, or toileting, sleep problems, etc.
- Poor Social Skills – difficulty making or keeping friends, poor play skills or sportsmanship, aggressive, low frustration tolerance, low self-esteem, has difficulty reading social cues or others’ body language.
- Core Strength– reduced core strength can commonly result in children rolling around on the floor, or even holding their head to close to the page when drawing.
Occupational Therapists offer many useful strategies to address the above concerns, all of which can be taught through really fun activities, that engage the children and allow them to achieve their goals. This is of particular benefit prior to starting school. As we know, early intervention is key!
If you think an Occupational therapist can help, you can call us on (02) 4959 8920 or email us at [email protected] for more information. We offer initial assessments, screenings, and school visits for children and parent/teacher workshops (Professional Development).