Occupational therapy can be a huge benefit for children with disabilities. It’s an effective way to help these kids perform meaningful activities and enrich their lives. If you want to assist your child in their development and help them to maintain the skills they need to carry out day to day tasks, then occupational therapy could be the way forward for you and your family. You want the best for your kids, but there may be only so much support you can provide alone, without the proper knowledge and qualifications. An occupational therapist can fill in the gaps and support both you and your child to ensure that everyone has what they need for a bright future.
Occupational therapy can help children who have learning disabilities to improve their performance in educational environments and help them to retain the information they are given more easily, amongst other things. An occupational therapist is there to help your child, whether they have issues with their concentration, attention, spelling, recalling letters and numbers, or something similar. These issues can be indicative of things like motor problems, visual perception, and attention difficulties. Addressing them in this way can give your child the skills they need to lead a healthier, happier life in the long term. Addressing these issues early on can ensure your child has the skills they need to live a high quality of life, and that they can get by without needing help 24/7.
More About Learning Disabilities
Around 1 in 10 people may have a learning disability, according to studies. This can be caused by various deficits, and they can affect things like reading and writing skills, as well as listening and speaking ability. It can often be characterized as a deficit in the person’s performance and what is expected of them. It can also be found in people with a range of intelligence levels, so no assumptions can be made about one’s intelligence. The signs to look out for include:
- Clumsy movements, bumping into things often.
- Can’t focus on one activity at a time, is easily distracted.
- Messy and poor handwriting.
- Disoriented when reading or writing.
- Unusual punctuation.
- Poor recollection of sight words.
- Reversing written letters.
- Sentences formulated with words in the wrong order.
- Difficult organising letters in a proper sequence.
If you suspect that your child may have a learning disability, it’s wise to address this as early on as possible. Your child must be assessed before you can go forward with a plan from an occupational therapist.
How Can An Occupational Therapist Help?
An occupational therapist can help a child with a disability by helping them to partake in daily activities and tasks. This could be things like showering and preparing food – the things we should be doing daily. It could also be leisure and social activities, work, education, and even volunteering. They will learn the basic skills they need to live life, as well as skills and activities that provide enrichment to one’s life.
An occupational therapist will deal with case management, care coordination, education, and even give support to the child’s caregivers or family members. They help the children to implement methods and tools that can support their engagement in these tasks, and ultimately, help them to live a higher quality of life. Including the family in a plan is a must, as everybody should be on board to ensure the success of the child.
When providing occupational therapy for children, the following interventions were given the go ahead based on evidence:
- Cognitive interventions
- Bimanual therapy
- Behavioural interventions
- Feeding interventions
- Joint attention
- Home programs
- Mental health interventions
- Parent education
- Treadmill training
- And more
Who May Benefit From Occupational Therapy?
Children who have certain medical conditions or disabilities could benefit from occupational therapy. While the list below is not extensive, it can give a good idea of the children who could benefit from OT:
- Children with developmental delays
- Children with birth defects or birth injuries
- Children with traumatic injuries
- Children with learning problems like ADHD
- Children with mental health issues like panic disorder
- Children with severe burns
- Children with amputations
- Children with arthritis
- Children with hand injuries
- Children with broken bones
Of course, this isn’t a conclusive list, so if unsure it’s always better to arrange a consultation with an occupational therapist to discuss your child’s needs. Having an assessment will give you a good idea of the sort of plan that would be put in place for your child.
How Can Parents Help?
If your child is entering into a program created by an occupational therapist, understanding what is involved is very important and can have a big impact on the success of your child. See if you can arrange to observe one of your child’s school occupational therapy sessions, ask questions, and make sure you have peace of mind. They may recommend things for you to do at home or things for you to purchase to make life easier and more pleasant for your child. Make sure your aim is to work alongside the occupational therapist, and not tell them how to do their job. Having your child work with an OT may be nerve wracking, but you need to trust that they are always going to do what is best for your child.
Keeping up friendly communication with your child’s OT can ensure you feel comfortable to inquire about any issues your child may be having while they’re at home. You may also be able to find out if there’s any work you could be doing with your child at home. They may be games you can play with your child to bring both functional benefits and enrichment to their life.
The Benefits of Occupational Therapy For Children With Disabilities
There are an abundance of benefits for children who have disabilities undertaking work with an occupational therapist. The list below is not extensive:
- Improved fine motor skills – if a child is struggling with their fine motor skills, they may benefit through performing activities with their OT and develop the skill. This can help them learn to hold pencils and pens, improve their handwriting, and even learn to play with toys.
- Improved behaviour – children with behavioural disorders can learn to become better at behaving in a positive manner across a range of environments, whether at home, out in public, or in the classroom. The therapist will help them to deal with their emotions, such as anger and frustration, and will help them to express their feelings in a way that works for them.
- Improved coordination – sound coordination will help your child to do things like eating, drinking, playing sports, and even using a computer. Their hand-eye coordination will improve and they will be better equipped to play with friends and perform various tasks.
- Improved development – children with a disability who undergo OT before the age of six may benefit from improved mental and physical development. They can learn sensory processing skills such as motor, cognitive, communication, and play.
- Improved social skills – children may struggle to maintain good relationships if they have a disability. They may benefit from this therapy in that they can learn how to better socialize, as well as communication and interpersonal skills.
- Learn basic tasks – severe developmental delays can be helped by occupational therapists who will help the child perform day to day tasks. They will learn to feed themselves, bathe, tie their shoelaces, and other tasks that they need to do each day.
- Improved independence – developing the skills that an OT can teach will help children become more self confident and independent. This can help them right into adulthood.
An occupational therapist may also help you child by evaluating their need for aids and recommending or providing specialised equipment. This may include bathing equipment, communication aids, and wheelchairs. A simple aid could make the biggest difference to your child’s quality of life.
Should You Have an OT Help Your Child?
If your child has a learning disability, an OT could help them to explore the intrinsic problems causing these difficulties. They can help to improve your child’s participation in various activities and environments. A good OT will work with teachers and family members to ensure your child is better supported, and that the appropriate changes are made in the classroom or at home.
Your child may improve when it comes to their self regulation, attention, and alertness. Their handwriting skills may improve, and memory prompts could help them, along with time management strategies. A great occupational therapist will help your child to learn basic day to day skills, get used to equipment that suits their needs, and more.
Early intervention is usually the best course of action to take if possible, and then an occupational therapist can come up with a well structured plan that is evidence based, being sure to include family members. Arrange an assessment with an occupational therapist today to begin putting a plan together for your child.