The Role of Pediatric Occupational Therapy
Just as occupational therapy benefits millions of adults each year, pediatric services can help to empower children of all ages to excel at their activities of daily living. By helping children to develop the skills needed to succeed in such areas as play, self-care, school performance and socialization, occupational therapy can boost their self-esteem and build a sense of accomplishment. For many children, occupational therapy is a critical part of their health care.
Occupational therapy provides opportunities for children to engage in playful activities that assist in building skills in the appropriate developmental sequences to achieving functional independence. Therapists address sensory and motor development, while improving attention, self-regulation and self-confidence. Functional skill training, compensatory strategies and adaptations are taught to support successful participation in everyday life. All of this is done in a therapeutic, safe environment specifically designed to support the treatment goals.
Children with the following medical conditions might benefit from occupational therapy:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cognitive Disorder
- Delayed milestones
- Developmental Coordination Disorder
- Developmental delays
- Down Syndrome
- Feeding difficulties
- Fine motor delays
- Generalized weakness
- Genetic/chromosomal disorders
- Global Developmental Delays
- High muscle tone
- Learning disabilities
- Lowe muscle Tone
- Reading disorders
- Sensory Processing disorder
- Specific learning impairments
- Vestibular problems
Evaluations and Interventions focus on:
- Self-care skills
- Fine motor skills
- Hand-eye coordination
- Visual motor and visual perceptual skills
- Sensory-motor processing and integration
- Motor coordination
- Motor planning/Praxis
- Spatial awareness
- Ocular motor skills
- Strength and endurance
- Reflex integration
How We Help Children:
Sensory integration is the process in which our brain takes in, interprets and organizes sensory information to make an appropriate motor or emotional response. Sensory integration dysfunction occurs when the information is not perceived or organized into an appropriate response. Children may have difficulty with sensory modulation (understanding the intensity and nature of the sensory input) or with sensory discrimination (assigning proper meaning to the quality of the sensory input). Sensory processing dysfunction can impact all aspects of a child’s life by limiting their ability to interact with the environment from which they should be taking in information and learning from constantly. Our sensory-enriched clinic provides a variety of gross motor/sensory equipment that allows children to exploring and engaging in play opportunities used to help organize the nervous system. Our experienced occupational therapists are trained in specific sensory strategies, which are incorporated into treatment plans on an individualized basis.
Gross Motor Coordination
Our therapists evaluate children’s gross motor skills and how they impact the child’s ability to engage in everyday activities. Children rely on their on their postural stability to maintain their balance when navigating their environments, as well as when seated to maintain an optimal level of arousal. Our therapists assess various skills, such as crossing midline, bilateral coordination, balance, strength, tone, righting reactions and reflex integration to target areas of difficulty. During therapy sessions children are encouraged to move through developmentally appropriate patterns of movement to gain strength and control for volitional movements.
Our therapists assess fine motor skills in regard to fingers, hands and arms development, including reaching, grasping, manipulating and grasps pattern development. Therapists use a variety of activities to improve fine motor strength, in-hand manipulation skills, finger opposition and joint stability for improved fine motor output.
Visual-motor integration is the ability to take in visual information and coordinate an appropriate motor response to it. Children who are challenged in this area have difficulty coordinating their movements to what they see. This can impact children’s handwriting, coloring and their ability to catch a ball, complete puzzles, tie their shoes or build with blocks. Our therapists evaluate children’s visual-motor skills and then may make adaptations to activities, such as breaking the activity down into parts. The therapist may also provide visual supports or compensatory strategies for deficits.
Our therapists teach strategies and use specific programs to assist children in understanding sensory integration related to arousal levels. They help children learn how to monitor, maintain and change their level of alertness so that that it is appropriate for a situation or task. They also work to promote self-regulation including emotional control, sensory regulation and executive functioning skills.
Self-Care/Daily Living Skills
Daily responsibilities of children at home, in the environment and at school include bathing, eating, feeding, functional mobility, personal hygiene and grooming, sleeping, toilet hygiene and play. Our therapists work on developing the prerequisite skills needed to complete these tasks independently, as well as work to find ways to adapt or alter equipment to promote independence and self-confidence in the children we help.
To learn more about North Shore Children’s Therapies’s Occupational Therapy Program, or to make a referral, please contact us at (978) 535-3355.