What do Occupational Therapists do?
More than you think!
When most people think about Occupational Therapists (OTs), they probably think of someone who works with children with physical disabilities or handwriting difficulties. While it’s true that they do help with those issues, their scope of practice is a lot broader. Our OTs work with children to help them reach independence in their day-to-day skills, which is actually a child’s “occupation.” Their occupation involves things such as playing, kicking a ball, sitting at a desk, eating with a fork, wearing their pants, and copying from the board.
- Improve the child’s attention, focus, and concentration, as well as other important underlying skills such as social, emotional, and sensory regulation. These are skills which are essential in school and at home. For example, some children cannot cope with background sound; this distraction impacts their ability to participate in classroom activities. Occupational Therapists can help build the child’s ability to process sound input and improve their abilities to remain attentive in the presence of noise through an approach known as Sensory Integration.
- Improve skills for learning at school such as listening, writing, copying, and finishing homework. Occupational Therapists use current evidence-based specialised approaches to achieve the best outcomes in the child’s motor skills and learning.
- Help children start their day right by working towards independence in everyday routines such as brushing their teeth and getting dressed (using buttons, closing zips, and tying shoelace) When children struggle with these daily tasks it can mean starting each day with frustration, tears, and failure.
- Build foundational skills for higher, more complex skills such as comprehension, visualisation, planning, organising, and thinking.
- Assess, design interventions, monitor and review the child’s progress regularly.
- Work closely with parents by providing carry-over programs at home.
- Collaborate with teachers and other professionals to ensure that the child’s needs are supported and met.
- unable to focus on tasks or are constantly fidgeting.
- poorly coordinated with sloppy handwriting.
- impulsive, rarely slow down or seem to always be on the go.
- clumsy or keep bumping into people and things.
- unaware of their own safety situation or seem to fall frequently.
- having difficulty with hopping, jumping, skipping, or running compared to others of the same age group
- sensitive to certain textures or sounds.
- slow in completing puzzles, matching shapes and sizes, or frequently reverse words or letters.
- unable to keep pace in reading or copying from the board.
- diagnosed with a recognized disability [e.g. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Autism, ADHD, Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).]
- Motor Coordination and Balance Difficulties including strengthening and development of gross and fine motor skills, muscle tone and strength, bilateral coordination and reflex integration.
- Sensory Processing Disorders including sensory registration, awareness, tolerance, discrimination and organization of touch, movement, auditory and olfactory stimuli. This also includes planning and execution of movement/ motor tasks.
- Behaviour / Attention Span Issues which includes self-regulation, attending skills and sustaining participation in tasks for appropriate lengths of time.
- Handwriting Difficulties which includes remediation on hand/arm muscle tone and strength, functional pencil grip, posture, visual-motor skills, visual perception, memory.
- Perceptual Motor Difficulties which includes remediation of challenges in discrimination of numbers, letters or words that are similar, writing on the line and/or spacing between letters/words, identifying which letters/numbers are formed correctly, letter and number reversals, body/spatial awareness, etc.