The early years of a child’s life are very crucial as in those years the cognitive, social, and physical development of the child takes place. The first 3 years are especially very critical because the brain evolves during this duration. But, not every kid successfully passes through these developmental milestones. There are some of them who do not mature as they should, and have restricted or delayed progression or advancement. If a child faces these problems and needs support to develop optimally, then occupational therapy may be of immense help.
Not many know the fact that the therapy is not just for adults, but kids too. With the help of Occupational therapy, kids can have enhanced development, improved cognitive and communication skills, and minimized developmental delay. The therapy is carried out according to the child’s disability or condition. The practitioners evaluate the kid and then set out a therapy procedure to improve the processing and enable new learning.
There are several procedures that are used, and a lot of importance is associated with the therapy. Let’s discuss in details when does a child need occupational therapy, the benefits of the therapy, and some activities that can help the child lead a normal life.
Benefits Of Occupational Therapy For Children
Kids occupational therapy has numerous benefits. The therapy is used for a wide range of diseases and disorders and prepares the kids to lead healthy and normal life. Some of the benefits are as follows.
General Activities of Daily Life:
The list starts with providing aid to the young ones facing difficulties in daily activities like brushing, dressing, toileting, writing, drawing, etc. The therapy helps develop these self-help skills in the children.
Sensory Processing Issues:
It is generally observed that children with sensory processing issues are unable to synthesize information in the basic five senses i.e. sight, smell, touch, hear, and taste. These children may experience over-sensitivity, under-sensitivity, or both at different places like school, home, or anywhere. These kids often feel difficulty in paying attention and get distracted by a loud fire alarm and other such things. They also try to avoid recess and activities going on around them.
Occupational therapy can help those young ones regain the skills and addresses the issue in a proper manner.
Kids with Cerebral Palsy:
The occupational therapy is also beneficial for the ones suffering from cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and other disorders in which the kid needs a wheelchair. The OT practitioner teaches the kid to use the wheelchair in a proper manner and come for the lunch, make for the class on time, get things out from their locker, and more.
Kids with Autistic Spectrum Disorder:
The disease autism and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) are somewhat related but are not same. Kids with SPD may not suffer from autism, but the reverse may be true. The kid suffering from SPD has trouble communicating other people, limited play skills, less interest in activities, etc. The occupational therapy practitioner can help gain these skills by observing the child’s behavior and developing a plan for them. The OT uses different sets of methods and plans, and there is no such single ideal program. These may include activities to help with interaction, puzzles to develop coordination and awareness and more.
Fine and Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skill involves the movement of muscles in arms, legs, etc. whereas fine muscle skills involve the use of small muscles in forearm and fingers. Kids having trouble with these skills may experience difficulty in walking, bicycling, and other. Occupational therapy can be used to deal with the condition and eventually eradicate it.
Occupational Therapy Activities for Kids
There are a number of activities that can be arranged for children with several diseases depending on the condition. The therapy can be conducted in several places like hospital, home, schools, clinic, specialized center, etc. It is designed differently for kids of various age group.
For Toddlers and Infants:
The infants generally face trouble sleeping at night. The common exercises that are included are bath time activities, providing gentle massage, sand and water therapy, feeding therapy, activities using specialized toys to make them deal with light and sound, olfactory input activities, etc.
Sensory Integration Activities
These activities help child response more actively and accurately to the environment. The activities are designed in such a way that it creates a deep pressure on the child. These can be active or passive. You can create soft corners in the room using soft furnishing like a bean bag which provides a wonderful deep pressure with a calming effect.
Another thing you can do is let him lie down on a mat or bed and cover him with blankets and pillows to develop pressure. Or, give them stress ball to squeeze, chew toys, etc.
These are designed for the child’s legs and arms so that they can work in an effective way. These are basically divided into two broad categories: bilateral and hand-eye coordination skills. For hand-eye coordination, ask your child to hit a ball with a bat, catch a ball, etc. Bilateral activities provide the ability to use both sides of the body in an accurate manner. You can ask your child to roll out pastry sheets from a play dough, ask them to pull a rope hand-over-hand, etc.
Visual Perception Activities
These activities help the child understand the information send by eyes to the brain. For form constancy and to help them understand shapes put objects on a tray and ask your child to recognize them. You can also use any object at home for this activity. Use books to teach them different fonts and same alphabets of different size to enhance their abilities. Ask your child to draw shapes, lines, alphabets, etc. You can also use jigsaw puzzle to aid development process.
Activities for Fine and Gross Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are required for those who have trouble using a hand, fingers, and forearm properly. The basic therapy includes simple exercises of arms, wrist, fingers, etc., so that they can perform regular work like holding a pencil with ease. Give them safety scissors and ask them to cut out shapes from the paper.
For gross motor skills, help your child with core and shoulder activities. These activities may include swimming, hopscotch, wheelbarrow walking, walking over an unstable surface, etc.
Other activities involved in occupational therapy with kids that could keep them involved and improve their development process are: painting with pom-pom balls, making a playdough puzzle, smash the dough or cut out shapes from it, place a coin in a container, etc.