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Many people feel that occupational therapy, or OT, as it is often called, is meant for adults and has no meaning for children. Once they are persuaded to let their child participate in it, they are amazed and happy to see the improvement it brings about in their lives. It not only deals with the physical well being but also takes care of social, psychological and environmental factors which a child faces in daily life. OT thus affects the way the child functions in different ways and becomes a major part of his total healthcare.

Why occupational therapy is needed?

OT helps children become independent in their lives. They no longer look to their parents and helpers to do tasks they routinely need to do like wearing their clothes. They feel happy and satisfied that they can achieve something on their own. People think OT means help for adults in their occupation but they forget that a child is meant to play and learn. Therapists evaluate how a particular child’s daily activities, school performance and skills needed for playing compare with what is considered appropriate for that age. For those not found up to the mark, OT helps to improve physical, mental and motor skills. It thus helps to improve their self esteem and they begin to feel better about themselves.

Which children need occupational therapy?

Parents can observe their children from birth and can spot if there are any developmental delays. They can compare their child with children of his age group. If a child has behavioural or mental health problems, then he is a candidate for OT. Children who have learning problems or sensory processing disorders benefit from OT. Therapists are also able to help autistic children.

Some physical conditions require OT so that a child can lead a normal life. Children with birth injuries or birth defects like spina bifida, those who have injuries to the brain or spinal cord, burn victims, those with fractures or other orthopaedic injuries need specialised therapy. OT helps to rehabilitate children who have severe hand injuries or amputations. In some chronic illnesses like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis OT proves to be life saving. Those children who come face to face with cancer and some post surgical problems also need OT.

How OT help kids with activities?
  • Therapists help to make life easy and as close to as possible for children whose development is delayed to a great extent. They teach them basic tasks like brushing their teeth and bathing so that they are able to maintain hygiene. Everyday tasks like getting dressed, how to deal with buttons etc. and feeding themselves are practiced.
  • Children who have behavioural disorders are taught anger management techniques. They are taught positive ways to get rid of their anger like writing about their feelings, playing games or exercising instead of hitting someone, acting violent or throwing a tantrum.
  • Those who have a hand injury or some physical problem are helped to improve their hand writing and motor skills by grasping and releasing toys, marbles etc.
  • Therapists work with children who have short attention spans and sensory problems to improve their focus and social skills.
  • While playing and having fun OT is able to improve a child’s hand eye coordination. Games where a child has to hit a ball with a bat or a racket and hitting a predetermined target are used. The child also learns to copy correctly what he sees written on a blackboard.
  • Children with physical disabilities are taught to handle everyday tasks like eating and using gadgets like computers. Their speed of writing and letter formation are worked upon so that they do not lag behind in school.
  • A therapist can suggest if any specialised equipment is needed to improve the performance and well being of a child like wheel chairs, hearing aids and spectacles. Zippers and fastening tapes may be suggested instead of buttons and laces to help the child dress on his own. Likewise, special equipment may be needed in the bathroom.
  • Occupational therapy plays an important role in making a child understand what to do and how to do it, making him a happy and well adjusted child.