Paediatric occupational therapy is a type of occupational therapy that focuses on the development, growth and learning of children. Occupational therapists help children develop the skills they need to function in day-to-day life, whether that is at home, school or in the community. They work with children with and without disabilities to help the child develop skills including fine motor, gross motor, cognitive functioning, sensory processing, behaviour, toileting, dressing, eating, and focus and concentration. This blog post will give you all the information you need on paediatric occupational therapy as well as how it can help your child gain independence in daily tasks.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Before we delve into Paediatiric Occupational Therapy, which is Occupational Therapist who work with children, let’s have a look at what is Occupational Therapy in general as OTs can work with newborns all the way to the elderly.
According to the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, Occupational Therapy is “a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of Occupational Therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. (WFOT 2012)
In other words, Occupational Therapists look at the “occupations” of a person. These “occupations” are daily activities that individuals want to, need to, or are expected to do. These occupations are things that are meaningful to the person and can include:
- Self-care activities
- activities (e.g. toileting, dressing, brushing their teeth, eating, sleeping),
- Productivity activities (e.g. going to work or school),
- Leisure activities (e.g. hanging out with family and friends, playing basketball, going on hikes, baking etc.)
Occupational Therapists aim to help the individual achieve success in their occupations by:
- developing the knowledge and skills required for the occupation
- modify the task or the way the task is completed
- modify the environment or provide alternative equipment and assistive devices
Occupational Therapists work with different people in the population and in different environments. Some places you might find Occupational Therapists are:
- Work rehabilitation when someone has had a workplace injury
- In the hospital working in rehabilitation after someone has had a stroke
- Teaching people to drive after an injury
- Working with premature babies in the hospital
- Working in mental health care facilities
- Working with children in schools
Now we have a better understanding of what occupational therapy is, let’s delve into what is Paediatiric Occupational Therapy?
What is Paediatric Occupational Therapy?
Paediatric Occupational Therapists are OTs who have experience working with children. You will often see Paediatric OTs in the clinic, homes and schools.
How can Paediatric Occupational Therapists help my child?
As mentioned before, “occupations” are daily activities that individuals want to, need to, or are expected to do. Occupations can also be defined as anything that ‘occupies time’. Using this definition, children have many different occupations! Children play. They learn. They eat. They learn to look after themselves – like going to the toilet, putting on clothes, tying their shoelaces. They ride bikes. They play with friends. Occupational therapists help children who might be having difficulty in these areas, whether they have a disability or not.
What skills can OTs help with?
Paediatric Occupational Therapists can provide assessment, therapy and consultation around:
- Child development including is your child meeting developmental milestones and what are the next milestones for your child\
- Gross motor skills, including hand eye coordination and core strength
- Fine Motor Skills. Fine motor skills are small muscle development in their hands required for handwriting, tying shoelaces and doing up buttons and zippers.
- Play And Social Skills. These skills are needed for social development with peers.
- Participation and engagement in daily activities and routines
- Attention and concentration in daily activities and routines
- Self Regulation i.e. emotional regulation, level of alertness
- Sensory Processing is an individual’s ability to receive, process, and respond to sensory information. Children with difficulties in sensory processing can display through behaviours such as running away, covering their ears in loud environments and talking loudly in class.
- Self-Care or activities for daily living include activities which help with looking after oneself. These include toileting, dressing, and eating.
- Executive Functioning are cognitive skills such as maintaining attention in class, memory, problem solving and planning skills.
- School readiness
- Prescription of equipment
How can Paediatric Occupational Therapy help my child?
Well, your child’s Occupational Therapist might:
- Help your child develop their fine motor skill so they can open containers, button their shirts, tie their shoelaces, pick up objects, and pick up a pencil to draw and write.
- Help your child develop skills to socialise with others and develop friendships.
- Work with parents and/or teachers to offer strategies to best support their children at school at home.
- Look at reasons why your child might be behaving in certain ways
- Assess whether your child has sensory processing difficulties making it difficult for them to focus in the classroom
- Help build your child’s skill in attention in class, or planning and problem solving.
- Work together with parents on developing toileting skills
In addition to helping children develop their knowledge and skills in certain skill areas, Paediatric Occupational Therapists also work with the child’s family and school education team to ensure there is good understanding about the child (including their diagnosis, if any), strategies that help the child and how to better support the child in the child’s natural environments.
What diagnoses can OTs help with?
Occupational Therapist work with children with and without diagnosis. We have experience in working with children with a range of conditions including:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Intellectual impairment
- Global Developmental Delay (GDD)
- Cerebral Palsy
- Downs Syndrome
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Learning problems
- Social emotional challenges
- Developmental delays
- Behavioural difficulties
Do Paediatric Occupational Therapists only work with children with disabilities?
No, Occupational Therapists can work with children with or without a diagnosis.
If a child is having difficulty in one area of their life that is significantly impacting their ability to perform daily living (e.g. handwriting), then they may also see an Occupational Therapist. They do not need a formalised diagnosis.
Check out the following website for more information about Occupational Therapy for Children.
- Occupational Therapy Australia: https://aboutoccupationaltherapy.com.au/working-with-children/
- Raising Children Network: https://raisingchildren.net.au/guides/a-z-health-reference/occupational-therapist
- Understood.org: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/treatments-approaches/therapies/occupational-therapy-what-you-need-to-know