Parents call on occupational therapists when a child’s condition or developmental delay means they struggle to carry out the tasks of daily life. Issues can range from having difficulty putting on a coat, to cutting up food, colouring, catching a bus, handwriting, or sitting posture.
An occupational therapist will assess the cause of the dysfunction and identify the activities the child wants to master. They will depend on the person, their way of life and culture, because individuals have their own criteria for what they need, or for what is required to restore or maintain their state of health. Accordingly, an occupational therapist will devise a bespoke plan to, for example:
- stimulate the perception and processing of sensory information (touch, body–spatial relationship, balance control);
- develop fine and gross motor skills in order to function better (manipulating objects, finding a stable position before acting);
- suggest strategies to help perform an action (focussing attention, planning and checking);
- promote social and emotional skills;
- practise visual, auditory and spatial memory to condition action
With children, occupational therapy sessions take the form of play in a fun, stimulating, and motivating environment. Therapists ensure the child is fully engaged, can accomplish new challenges successfully and achieve their full potential. They target the activity to be improved, sometimes by breaking it down into the smaller steps or skills (pre-requisites) required for a successful outcome.
Occupational therapists can also help with respect to the child’s particular situation and environment. They advise on adaptations, helpful tools or can make braces. Everything builds on the child’s current resources to help develop their independence in tasks they want to do. Occupational therapists also provide parents and caregivers with advice and information on the best strategies to help a child’s development.