What is Occupational Therapy?
Historically, occupational therapy began to assist with the return of a person’s “occupation.” Today, occupational therapy is multifaceted. For children, this treatment is often focused directly on a child’s “work”, which is play. Occupational therapy teaches children fine motor, handwriting, eye-hand coordination, visual perceptual, and sensory motor skills, all of which are needed for successful interaction with toys and others during play.
Occupational therapy also assists children with daily self-care, attention/focus, and self-regulation. As children age, these skills have a direct impact on classroom performance, with the need for handwriting, attending in class, participating in group activities, organizing materials and staying focused for longer periods of time becoming critical for classroom success.
How do I know if my child needs occupational therapy?
Parents of young children often ask, “Why does my child need occupational therapy? She is only two years old.” A child can exhibit fine motor delays at a very young age. Delayed fine motor skills can be noticed in young children as they play with toys and use utensils to eat. Without treatment, this delay may continue as they are using crayons, markers, and scissors or dressing oneself. Unfortunately, many of these issues are not recognized until an early childhood teacher identifies the real impact of a fine motor delay when a child is unable to write manuscript or cursive letters.
It is estimated that 95 percent of children who are experiencing difficulty with visual motor integration and delayed hand writing also have difficulty participating in gym class, getting ready for recess, playing games or participating in structured and unstructured sports and leisure activities. These children not only have poor handwriting that is affecting their academics, but they also have poor life skills caused by an underlying motor delay. Addressing delays early in age with targeted intervention can set a child on a path to future success as they navigate fine motor requirements throughout stages of life.