Occupational therapy, or OT for short, is a treatment therapy that helps people achieve independence in all facets of their lives. Most people think of occupational therapy as a treatment for adults that helps them get back to work, but that is a very narrow definition. “Occupation” in this sense refers to managing all the activities important for independent living. For children, especially, their main job is playing and learning. If your child has physical disabilities or developmental delays, occupational therapy can improve their cognitive (thinking), physical and motor skills as well as address psychological, social, and environmental factors that impact your child’s functioning.
Occupational Therapy, more commonly associated with assisting the elderly or equipment prescription after an accident or injury, is a little known gold mine of help for children. The occupational therapy can assist disabled children with social interaction, attention, academic skill development, behavior, communication, and overall physical development focusing particularly upon play and sensory integration
Some disabilities and areas of dysfunction are blatantly obvious, but others are not. The obvious is when we help patients regain function after recent onset of illnesses or injuries or developmental delays such as with autism, cerebral palsy, downs syndrome and the like.
The less obvious are the more silent disabilities such as mental health, early development concerns/issues, the inability to occupy one’s time in any of the work, rest or play areas, and difficulties associated with sensory processing disorders.
The Goal of OT
Occupational Therapy has the same goal in mind (increasing function and independence) in regards to physical disabilities and limitations, and we may use repetitive exercises, but most often we use them in the context of a “functional activity”. This refers to performing meaningful activities while simultaneously working on increasing function and mobility.
For example, suppose we have a patient with limitations in upper extremity strength and range of motion. A Physical Therapist may have a patient doing an arm exercise bike or repetitively lifting weights over their head (using heavier weights as the patient tolerates). Don’t misunderstand me, this HAS it’s place and definite purpose in rehab!
Occupational Therapy then takes the therapy one step further (not a better way, just in conjunction with or in addition to). For example, given the same physical condition, suppose we find out (which is part of our job) that you enjoy playing basketball. We then may have you increasing your strength, range of motion and help you regain function by engaging you in practicing “shootin’ hoops”. We also would “grade” (gradually increasing demands) the activity by starting with a light ball and low basket. As you improved the basket would get higher and the ball heavier (I may even try to block a few shots!). Thus, these “exercises” will allow you to regain function and allow you to participate in the game with your maximum potential. This is only one simple example of so many possibilities!
Physical disabilities are only one aspect of Occupational Therapy and is usually the ONLY SIGNIFICANT aspect that will overlap with Physical Therapy. However, in Occupational Therapy we also work on other functional deficits, from mental health, as it interferes with daily functioning, to developmental delays or disabilities, as they interfere.
For example, we may help someone with a mental illness learn (or re-learn) to use their leisure time productively, handle their symptoms, get them back to work, or help them learn life skills such as healthy choices, assertiveness or relaxation skills, managing their money or their stress (just to name a few!)
Our functions are many and are often “defined” by the setting we are in. What we do in an early intervention setting, a school, rehab, clinic, in someone’s home or in a hospital will “define” our role. This is the reason it is sometimes difficult to answer; “what is occupational therapy?”
Thus, it IS varied (which is part of the reason our job is misunderstood by others), but it is all based on one guiding principle no matter which setting; that is, maintaining or increasing skills and/or adapting environments to meet the unique needs of an individual so they may become as independent, functional, emotionally and physically pain free, and developmentally on target as they are capable of.
Therefore, it is clear that Occupational Therapy has a definite role in helping/treating children with sensory processing disorders.
- Physical motor Gross motor
- Fine motor
- Sensory Issue
- Behavioural problems
- Academic skills
- Hand writing
- Reading problems
- Social competency
- Attention and Concentration
- Cognition and comprehension
Child Rehabilitation Centre provides comprehensive Occupational therapy assessment and treatment for various Developmental Disabilities.