Occupational therapists focus on increasing individual skills or sets of skills that are necessary to engage in meaningful activities (or “occupations” as we call them).
Occupational therapy can be hard work, but is meant to be rewarding and fun as well. A child’s individual interests are always included in treatment planning and home programs. Examples of activities that may be used include art, music, play, yoga, sports etc.
All of our occupational therapists have Master’s degrees and specialize in the pediatric population. They are skilled in providing comprehensive assessment and treatment of gross and fine motor delays, motor planning deficits, coordination difficulties, self-regulation/coping skills, sensory processing difficulties, attention/behavior concerns, self-care deficits, visual processing deficits, and handwriting difficulties.
General indicators that a child may benefit from occupational therapy services:
- Attention and organizational problems with school tasks
- Difficulties with social interaction
- Frequent emotional outbursts or “meltdowns”
- Lack of age appropriate play skills
- Weak, stiff or uncoordinated movements
- Awkward grasp or clumsy use of crayons, pencils, scissors, or other utensils
- Excessive seeking or avoidance of movement or touch
- Difficulty with age appropriate self-help skills such as dressing and toileting
- Poor balance
- Difficulty tolerating touch
- Difficulty with sports such as kicking, catching, or throwing a ball
- Difficulty regulating activity level
Handwriting and Keyboarding
For children experiencing significant difficulty mastering the motor demands of handwriting, further evaluation of fine motor skills (grasp, strength, endurance, and motor planning) by one of our occupational therapists is typically recommended. It is important to determine if the student’s writing difficulty is stemming from deficits in fine motor control/planning or if the difficulty is a secondary consequence of a child’s language-based learning disorder. This will help determine the appropriate course of intervention. This distinction will also help determine if the child would benefit from working on writing as part of a multisensory-based approach to teaching reading and spelling or if specific work with an occupational therapist on fine motor development and coordination is needed.
Our occupational therapists are skilled in addressing fine motor concerns related to handwriting and implementing a sequential approach as well as selection of appropriate tools (pencil grips, slant boards, postural support, specialized writing paper etc.) for improving these skills. For older children, a keyboarding program is often recommended as part of their intervention program.
Attention can be a large barrier to a student’s ability to make academic progress. It can coincide with other learning disabilities, as well as, stem from a variety of other underlying factors such as being hungry, tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed. We often use “The Alert Program” and “The Zones of Regulation Program” to help students understand how their bodies are feeling. Students are directly taught strategies to increase or decrease alertness so that their bodies are at the optimum arousal level to work. Our occupational therapists will work with both the student and teachers on strategies and tools that can be utilized in the classroom to help your students pay attention to optimize their learning potential and participation.
Sensory Processing and Self-Regulation
Sensory processing difficulties become a problem when they impact a child’s ability to participate in daily activities, such as school, social, community, and family activities. Occupational therapy intervention in the school setting focuses on providing both teachers and students with skills to succeed in the academic setting. Approaches used include directly working with the student on understanding and learning about their behavior (Zones of Regulation), establishing clear and individualized expectations for that student in the classroom, working with the teacher on management of sensory difficulties and supportive accommodations, and teaching the student advocacy skills to recognize when they need to assume responsibility for their behavior and how to take control over their body.