Articles

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY FOR CHILDREN

-‘Tosin Balogun

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its 1948 constitution defined health as “a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” Several personal and environmental factors can affect the individual’s state of health with or without the presence of a disease. As humans, we seek the skills necessary to adapt and self-manage when faced with physical, social, mental and psychological challenges from within ourselves and the environment; the aim being to effectively participate in activities of choice, interest, purpose and meaning to our lives.

When faced with these challenges, individuals may require help from professionals in the health profession including medicine, surgery, psychology and physiotherapy. Occupational therapy, as one of these professions seeks to improve the independent participation of individuals in activities of daily life within the limit of their injury, impairment or disability. Performed by occupational therapists, it is the use of assessment and intervention to develop, recover or maintain the meaningful activities, or occupations of individuals, groups or communities.

Occupational therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Interventions may include helping adults regain skills they have lost following an injury, helping children with school work, helping the elderly regain cognitive functions and helping adolescents acquire appropriate social skills. Sometimes, occupational therapy practitioners may need to work in other environments aside their clinics such as the client’s home, school or office. They may also recommend adaptive equipment to clients and provide training in its use, guidance and education for family members and caregivers.

Generally, occupational therapy service is three-fold:

  • an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals,
  • customised and client-specific intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
  • an outcome evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan, where necessary.
  • hospitals
  • clinics
  • rehabilitation and children centers
  • schools
  • nursing homes
  • mental health facilities
  • private practices

There is sometimes the misconception that occupational therapy is for adults; after all, children don’t have occupations. However, in occupational therapy parlance, occupation is used to describe all purposeful activities that individuals engage in. In addition, a child’s main occupation is play and learning. Occupational therapists can evaluate children’s play skills, school performance and participation in self-care activities, and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for the age group; thereby providing appropriate intervention. Occupational therapy practitioners work with children to improve fine motor skills, self-help skills, social skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills, and sensory-processing skills.

Occupational therapy practitioners work in different settings such as:

According to the America Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), children with these medical conditions may benefit from occupational therapy

  • birth injuries or birth defects
  • sensory processing disorders
  • traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
  • learning problems
  • autism/pervasive developmental disorders
  • juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • mental health or behavioural problems
  • broken bones or other orthopaedic injuries
  • developmental delays
  • post-surgical conditions
  • burns
  • spina bifida
  • traumatic amputations
  • cancer
  • severe hand injuries
  • multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses

Occupational therapy practitioners might help your child

  • work on fine motor skills such as grasp, release and handwriting skills
  • address hand–eye coordination to improve play and school skills
  • with severe developmental delays learn basic tasks (such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and feeding themselves)
  • with behavioural disorders maintain positive behaviours in all environments
  • teach kids with physical disabilities the coordination skills needed to feed themselves, use a computer, or increase the speed and legibility of their handwriting
  • evaluate a child's need for specialised equipment, such as wheelchairs, splints, bathing equipment, dressing devices, or communication aids
  • work with kids who have sensory and attention issues to improve focus and social skills

If you think your child might benefit from occupational therapy, ask your physician to refer you to a specialist. Your child’s school teacher may also recommend someone based on your child's academic or social performance. You can visit us at Little Beginnings Academy for specialist assessment and intervention.

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