What does a Pediatric Occupational Therapist do?

Occupational Therapists are trained to assist people of all ages to perform the functional tasks that normally occupy their lives. In Pediatric Occupational Therapy, a child's occupation is play. Play is the media most often used in the occupational therapist's treatment of children. It is highly motivating and a natural media used by all children. Through play, children develop the skills necessary to become functional and independent adults.

These skills include:

1. Regulation of arousal level in order to attend to the tasks of daily living.

Different activities in a child's day-to-day routine will evoke varied responses. A fast-paced game of tag evokes a different level of arousal than waiting in line listening for instructions. Some children are unable to regulate their responses between activities and have difficulty transitioning from one task to the next. Learning to regulate their level of arousal from activity to activity helps children to become more attentive and better focused.

2. Sensory processing.

Children gather information through seven senses. The five commonly known senses are: visual (sight), auditory (sound), olfactory (smell), tactile (touch), and oral/gustatory (taste). The other two are vestibular (movement through an environment) and proprioceptive (position in an environment). How children process this information can effect concentration, organization, motor control, language, problem-solving, and other high-level learning skills. Occupational Therapists help children learn to process this information and react accordingly.

3. Development of gross motor skills.

Gross motor skills involve the large muscles of the body that enable such motions as running, walking, throwing a ball, or climbing stairs. They also include jumping and balancing.

4. Development of fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills involve the small muscle movements that occur in the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes. It enables you to perform self-care (buttoning, zipping, tying), writing and drawing.

5. Development of communication skills and appropriate social interaction.,

As part of our humanity, we attempt to avoid awkward social situations. For some children, this is not a natural process. These children must be taught the rules of social interaction to avoid being ostracized by their peers. Teaching these rules is best done by a combination of professionals such as mental health specialists, speech pathologists, teachers, parents and so on. Occupational Therapists are best suited to address social skills that involve self-regulation and problem-solving.

6. Age appropriate self care skills.

Self care skills can include but are not limited to; eating, sleeping, dressing, toileting and bodily cleanliness. An Occupational Therapist works with the child and the child's caregivers to help the child meet their self care needs.

The expectations for the level of development of any of these skills will vary depending on the child's age. It is critical to remember that all of these skills are developing simultaneously. Impairment of one area is likely to stunt development in other areas. Education and involvement of the family is usually a primary consideration and may be critical to success.

The educational background of Occupational therapists includes extensive course work in anatomy, neurology and psychology. Their education also includes course work in activity analysis. This enables the therapist to analyze the components of a play or work activity choosing tasks that will improve the child's basic skills.

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Does My Child Need Occupational Therapy Services?

What is Abilities Coaching?

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